‘Incurvatus in se’ and Spiritual Blindness

4th Sunday of Lent

1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Psalm 23:1-6; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John.
(Short form)

AS Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. He spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.

His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’

They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It had been a sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How could a sinner produce signs like this?’ And there was disagreement among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ ‘He is a prophet’ replied the man.

‘Are you trying to teach us,’ they replied ‘and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!’ And they drove him away.

Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.

BROTHERS and sisters, the gospel in this 4th Sunday of Lent talks about blindness as a spiritual disease. Jesus told the Pharisees they were blind. He called them blind guides and blind fools. But it is not just them. He also called his own disciples blind when He exclaimed: “Are your minds completely blinded? Have you eyes but no sight?”

Jesus may be calling us spiritually blind right now. How else can we describe what is happening in our community right now? The panic buying and the hoarding of goods—most especially toilet papers, sugar, flour, rice or pasta! Despite the assurance of manufacturers that we have enough. This can also be said on the insistence of some, despite knowing that they may be carriers of the virus, to mingle with the rest of the community instead of self-isolating themselves. Or to insist on doing what we want and getting what we want despite the restrictions placed by legitimate authorities whether in health, public order and yes, even in the religious life.

This is blindness—a spiritual blindness because at the heart of it is the deadly sin of pride—the insistence of focusing and prioritizing the self, the Incurvatus in se or curving in on itself, as St Thomas Aquinas puts it. The deadly sin of pride drives this blindness because all that matters is me, my comfort, my security, my survival. In another sense pride blinds us to the reality that we are not in control. God is. But pride rejects God as the orienting centre from which and toward which we live, and substitute Him with something else—almost invariably the self—as that centre.

How then will we take Jesus’ diagnosis of our condition? Will we become defensive, or will we thank Jesus for telling us the truth? The Pharisees got angry at Jesus for calling them blind. They blinded themselves to being blind. They resented the man cured of blindness and threw him out of the synagogue. They even tried to impose blindness on everyone else. The Pharisees became so blind that they became darkness. As darkness, they hated the light. They hated Jesus, “the Light of the world”, and demanded He be crucified.

Spiritual blindness is degenerative. It turns the heart into a heart of stone. It erects walls of indifference and impatience. It turns into darkness and violence. On the other hand, the light that Jesus gives us is the gift of compassion, the ability to suffer with the poor and the vulnerable; the desire to pull down walls and build bridges, to heroically seek the good of the other.

Brothers and sisters, we must admit our spiritual blindness, especially in this trying and difficult times. And we must ask Jesus to heal us. Otherwise, we will hurt and even crucify our Healer and those whom He has healed of spiritual blindness. Let Jesus heal you from being blind to your spiritual blindness.

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