Jesus told his disciples a parable: ‘Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, “Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye”, when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.’
Among the paintings of the Dutch Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder there is a canvas which depicts Jesus question: Can a blind person guide a blind person? Bruegel’s painting is actually inspired by the parable in the 15th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, and shows six figures falling as they stumble down a country lane. Each of the blind men is suffering from a different eye affliction, and their path is seen to be leading away from the church in the background of the painting.
Bruegel’s work was a response to Jesus’ criticism of the role played by the Pharisees as they led people away from God with their man-made rules and regulations for the acceptable conduct of a spiritual life. Each of the blind men in Bruegel’s painting is well-dressed; they are not in the apparel of shabby peasants, which might be seen as implying that they are victims. Instead, their finer clothes indicate that their inability to see the true path to spiritual enlightenment is self-inflicted.
So often, we are like the blind men in Bruegel’s painting. We have God’s truth in our holy scriptures, the scriptures that should be the road map for every moment of our daily lives. We have the model of Jesus’ earthly life, a life in which we were shown how to love and serve and thereby draw closer to our heavenly Father. We know, whether we like it or not, what we are called to do in God’s name, even when it does not fit with the way we would prefer to live out our daily lives. The way in which we turn our backs on the teachings of the Church, on scripture, and on God himself leaves us with impaired eyesight, with a distorted vision that struggles to focus on all that is holy and pure.
Jesus asked: Can a blind person guide a blind person? There is a worrying truth contained within this question. There are those who strive to live a faithful life in the nearer presence of God. We are called to follow those people. But … we don’t! Too often we see their piety as feeble-mindedness, their humility as weakness, their worldly and spiritual generosity as something to mock rather than celebrate.
Let us pray that we might accept God’s challenge and become leaders for those who wish to discern the right path through this life. Let us pray that our vision might not become impaired by the myopia of self-importance and self-delusion. Let us pray that we might always be ready to hold out our hands to steady and to guide those who are falling from God’s path through this world.