The Blind Leading the Blind
March 3, 2019
Often in his teaching, Jesus will throw out a parable or an image. He wants us to play with that image, turning it over in our minds until some valuable truth is perceived. This is true of today’s gospel. Jesus presents us with this image: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will they not both fall into a pit?” Jesus’ image offers us two blind people, one leading the other. How should we understand it? Let’s ask some questions. If the person who is being led is blind, does he realize that the person leading him is also blind? If the blind person leading really wants to lead, is he inclined to share the fact of his blindness with the one he leads? In Jesus’ image there is blindness all around, and it seems that both characters are unaware of the danger that they are in, unaware that they are likely to fall into a pit.
The key to the image is this: We are the blind persons; sometimes leading, sometimes being led. This parable tells us that none of us have complete sight. All of us in some sense are blind. It is only by claiming the blindness around us that we can move forward. It is only when we realize that everyone is blind that we will work together to help each other, lest we fall into a pit.
Parents are charged to lead their children to maturity. But parents are blind. They do not see everything about the world or even everything about their children. Yet they are asked to lead. Children should admit their own blindness. They know what they want. They know their friends. But they don’t know everything the parent knows, even though the parent doesn’t know everything. It is in the moments when parents and children can claim their mutual blindness that progress occurs. Two blind people, one helping the other.
The image of Jesus is very useful for us today in our Church. Our bishops are charged to be leaders for us in faith and morals. But our bishops are blind. They have not proven adequate in dealing with sexual predators in the clergy and among their own ranks. They did not see, and perhaps cannot see, without asking for assistance from those whom they are leading. It is only when bishops and laity together hold one another accountable that we, as a Church, can move forward and leave the scourge of sexual abuse behind us.
As we try to lead one another, we are often blind to the social structures of sin that characterize our culture. Racism is an example. White Americans could be inclined to say, “How can there be racism? There is no longer slavery in our country.” Even though this is literally true, the attitudes that have been generated by slavery—prejudice, judgment, inferiority—continue to influence all of us. It is only when we recognize our blindness to the structural sins of racism, commercialism, individualism that we can avoid being harmed by them.
Although it sounds counterintuitive, Jesus is telling us that if we want to see, we must realize that we are blind. It is only when we realize our mutual blindness that we can set aside all pretense and posturing, and then understand that we need to work together lest we fall into the pit. That, after all, is how the blind lead the blind—one person helping the other.