Spots – Arnel Aquino, SJ

Luke 6:39-45, 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I heard a sad story recently. This person’s mom in the province died a few months ago. But when the family approached the parish to arrange for her funeral mass, the parish said it was constrained from accepting her body into the church. The rule was if someone died without having been sacramentally married, mass would not be allowed for his/her mortal remains in the church. Mass could be celebrated wherever the person was being waked, though—at home or the mortuary—just not in the church. The rule, it was said, served to “encourage” couples to take sacramental matrimony seriously and to discourage cohabitation. I was thinking, “But a dead person is no longer married, right?” But more seriously, in this present climate where church authorities are outed, exposed, and convicted for even grislier and more traumatizing sins than a dead person’s cohabitation history, to refuse her mass in church only exposes all the glaringly the beam stuck in the clericalist’s eye.

A blind spot, as we ordinarily understand it, is a disturbing habit or a negative behavior or attitude about which the bearer himself is ignorant or refuses to acknowledge. This parable about the “blind leading the blind,” Jesus directed this polemic at the Pharisees. We read in the Gospels how Jesus called the Pharisees,blind guides. They taught about God but did not love God. They imposed God’s law but didn’t practice God’s compassion. Worst of all, they took pains at appearing pure and holy, but privately, they were “whitewashed tombs,” seething with worldly and carnal desires. That was the Pharisaic blind spot. They foamed at the mouth over other people’s impurities, but remained remorseless over their own mischief.

We all have blind spots and in differing degrees. But we are mostly very patient with each other’s blind spots, aren’t we? We’re very forgiving. If a person’s blind spots don’t really harm us or our loved ones, even if they’re really annoying, we normally just brush them off, look at each other, roll our eyes, and say, “Oh well, that’s just dad being dad,” or Mom being mom,” “Father being Father. Then, we change topic.

But there are blind spots that harm, aren’t there?And unfortunately, it’s par for the course that the higher a person rises in officialdom, two things often happen: (1) the blinder the person becomes to his faults, but (2) the less people there are who are willing to call his attention and make him accountable for them.Consequently, what was just a splinter in his eye before is now a whole beam. This happens to the best peoplein both civil and religious society: governors, mayors, CEO’s, as well as bishops, superiors, consultors—the best people. Unchecked blind spots turn for the harmful, especially when official words and deeds decide our neighbors’ fates and futureslike what will heal them towards recovery or what will break them irreparably; what will make them love Christ more or what will embitter them about the Church; what will give them life or what will deal them death.

You know, sisters and brothers, and this is my personal opinion, we lose so much credibility and relevance as pastors, not so much because of our being sinners. You know we are sinners, yet you still care for us and love us. In fact, you have forgiven us our many sins, seen beyond our faults even when we get in the way between you and God many times. It’s not because of our being sinners that we lose so much credibility and relevance, no. It’s because many of us too loudly condemn and vociferate against the splinters in your eyes but miss the beam in our own. That’s when we, as Jesus says, “fall into a pit,” when we become unbelievable and irrelevant, “the blind leading the blind.”

How dare those priests call me out on extra judicial killing when they themselves are child abusers. When Duterte sputters something like that, he really unnerves many priests, leaves us cold and quiet. Why? What has happened? Well, the beam in our eye has left us not only blind, but also mute.

It’s not the first time that religious blind spots have harmed people. Two-thousand years ago, the beam that blinded Jewish officialdom became the very beam on which they nailed an innocent man to his death. He tried to shine light into their darkness. But he was too glaring. So they shut the light out of him. Yet, nobody else in the whole wide world could lead all of us to God better than this clear-eyed and wise, pure and loving, credible and relevant Good Shepherd of ours. In him alone lurk no blind spots. Just a soft spota soft spot for even the most hardened of sinners. A soft spot for us all.

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