On life’s winding journey, it’s interesting to know that there are blind spots to look out for!
We know how important it is to check our car’s blind spots, especially before changing lanes, reversing, or turning. Unfortunately, we learn the hard way sometimes.
Lately, I’ve been struck with the notion that we all possess physical and spiritual blind spots. Jesus taught us to be wary of the latter when He said, “I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with Him heard Him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:39-41). What is Jesus telling us here?
We need to be very careful that we stay sitting at Jesus’ feet, heeding His instruction, learning from Him, and staying open to His corrections. As soon as we think we have ‘arrived’ or ‘have this Christian lifestyle down,’ we’re in dangerous territory. Our wisest thoughts, greatest sacrifices, and deepest loves are mere breaths compared to God’s infinite loving wisdom.
For we only see partially; we do not see the whole picture, the master plan. Only God does. Saint Paul puts it like this, “Now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Looking back on my life, I recall that I was completely unaware of my pride, sins, shortcomings, judgments, presumptions, biases, fears, and lack of trust more times than one. Thankfully, God introduced people and events into my life, which helped uncover some of these areas of spiritual blindness.
I tend to learn the hard way. For years, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why one woman actively avoided me. It created a lot of tension, as we were in the same play-and-pray group. Eventually, I got the courage and humility to ask how I had offended her. The answer hurt like the dickens, and although we never became friends, at least now I am aware of one of my blind spots that were previously under the radar.
It takes a humble heart to allow people to remove splinters from our eyes. And our trouble is, we are not often humble enough.
There are many instances in my life when I was unaware of the harm that my unforgiveness, pride, need to control, tolerance for sin, or lack of gratitude caused. I do not wish to make a public confession here, but God has slowly been peeling off layers of spiritual blindness from me. Although it can be painful, I have gained greater spiritual freedom.
A wise friend once told me that she looks forward to Lent each year. I have never been one of those holy souls, so my ears perked up when she said that. She told me that she does not choose what she gives up or does for Lent. She lets her husband do that for her. I was absolutely floored by that concept.
What if we went to our spouse or a trusted fellow Christian and asked them how we could grow spiritually or what sinful habit we should confess?
So many times, our root sin is buried under more obvious issues. For instance, anger might be due to unforgiveness, worry might stem from the need to control, and perfectionism often involves pride. Most sins stem from a lack of trust in God’s goodness.
There is a real power that comes with being able to name your root sin. If you can identify it, you can repent and be free of it. However, root sins are tricky; they like to stay buried. A good regular confessor or spiritual director is a huge help. “Oh, if only I had had a spiritual director from the beginning, then I would not have wasted so many of God’s graces,” wrote Saint Faustina.
We can seek out accountability partners. God often uses other people to help us ‘see’ ourselves better. Family members, especially those who are actively following Christ, can be great blind spot checkers, as they see us at our best and our worst. And let’s not forget to simply ask God to reveal our blind spots to us.
What if we prepared for confession by asking the Holy Spirit to reveal an area of sin that we are oblivious to or ignoring? What if we did the same at the end of each day?
I particularly recommend seeking the advice of wise Christians before making big decisions. Just as it’s more important to check blind spots when we are planning to set out or change direction in a vehicle, we need to be extra careful to do the same when we are discerning our vocations, career choices, and other major life decisions.
Heavenly Father, give us humble, listening hearts so that You can change us for the better. Grant us Your vision to grow in our love for You and for our neighbors.
Denise Jasek has served the Catholic Church for many years. She is currently a music minister, mom of five mostly grown children, and lives in Ohio with her beloved husband Chris.
A few months ago, during a conversation about a “difficult” colleague, my immediate superior remarked: “If I am not able to be a source of solace to such people in my team, then all my spirituality is in vain.” It was a wake-up-call; I had often been in the habit of judging this colleague, so this left me in shame. I realized how badly I had failed to be a true witness to my faith, at my workplace. All of us are surrounded by difficult people, maybe in the form of a nagging spouse, an envious neighbor, an irritating colleague, or a domineering boss. In fact, Jesus dealt with difficult people on a daily basis, giving us the perfect example of compassion. This Lent, let’s be thankful to God for all these difficult people in our lives. Instead of judging and avoiding them, let’s try to be like Jesus. Let’s do to them what Jesus would have done for them if He was in our place. And let’s not forget that it’s not the good people but the difficult people who purify us.
There is a regrettable interpretation of the Cross that has, unfortunately, infected the minds of many Christians. This is the view that the bloody sacrifice of the Son on the cross was “satisfying” to the Father, an appeasement of a God infinitely angry at sinful humanity. In this reading, the crucified Jesus is like a child hurled into the fiery mouth of a pagan divinity in order to assuage its wrath. But what ultimately refutes this twisted theology is the well-known passage from John’s Gospel: “God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son, that all who believe in him might have eternal life.”(3:16) John reveals that it is not out of anger or vengeance or in a desire for retribution that the Father sends the Son, but precisely out of love. God the Father is not some pathetic divinity whose bruised personal honor needs to be restored; rather, God is a parent who burns with compassion for His children who have wandered into danger. Does the Father hate sinners? No, but he hates sin. Does God harbor indignation at the unjust? No, but God despises injustice. Thus, God sends his Son, not gleefully to see him suffer, but compassionately to set things right. Saint Anselm, the great medieval theologian who is often unfairly blamed for the cruel theology of satisfaction, was eminently clear on this score. We sinners are like diamonds that have fallen into the muck. Made in the image of God, we have soiled ourselves through violence and hatred. God, claimed Anselm, could have simply pronounced a word of forgiveness from heaven, but this would not have solved the problem. It would not have restored the diamonds to their original brilliance. Instead, in his passion to reestablish the beauty of creation, God came down into the muck of sin and death, brought the diamonds up, and then polished them off. In so doing, of course, God had to get dirty. This sinking into the dirt—this divine solidarity with the lost—is the “sacrifice” which the Son makes to the infinite pleasure of the Father. It is the sacrifice expressive, not of anger or vengeance, but of compassion. Jesus said that any disciple of His must be willing to take up his cross and follow the Master. If God is self-forgetting love even to the point of death, then we must be such love. If God is willing to break open his own heart, then we must be willing to break open our hearts for others. The cross, in short, must become the very structure of the Christian life.
Q: My Protestant friends say that Catholics believe we need to earn our salvation. They say that salvation is by faith alone and that we can’t add to anything that Jesus already did for us on the Cross. But don’t we have to do good works to make it to Heaven? A: This is a pretty big misunderstanding for both Protestants and Catholics. It may seem to be theological minutiae, but it actually has a huge consequence in our spiritual life. The truth is this: We are saved by living faith—our belief in Jesus Christ that is lived out in our words and actions. We must be clear—we do not need to earn our salvation, as if salvation was a prize if we reach a certain level of good deeds. Consider this: who was the first one to be saved? According to Jesus, it was the Good Thief. While he was being rightly crucified for his evil deeds, he cried out to Jesus for mercy, and the Lord promised him: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) So, salvation consists in that radical faith, trust, and surrender to what Jesus did on the Cross to purchase mercy. Why is this important? Because many Catholics think that all we have to do to be saved is ‘be a good person’—even if the person doesn’t actually have a living relationship with the Lord. I can’t begin to tell you how many people tell me something like: “Oh, my uncle never went to Mass or prayed, but he was a nice man who did many good things in his life, so I know he’s in Heaven.” While we certainly hope that the uncle is saved by God’s mercy, it isn’t our kindness or good works that save us, but the saving death of Jesus on the Cross. What would happen if a criminal was put on trial for a crime, but he said to the judge, “Your Honor, I did commit the crime, but look at all the other good things I did in my life!” Would the judge let him off? No—he would still have to pay for the crime he committed. Likewise, our sins had a cost—and Jesus Christ had to pay for them. This payment of the debt of sin is applied to our souls through faith. But, faith is not just an intellectual exercise. It must be lived out. As Saint James writes: “Faith without works is dead” (2:24). It’s not enough just to say: “Well, I believe in Jesus, so I can now sin as much as I want.” On the contrary, precisely because we have been forgiven and become heirs to the Kingdom, we must then act like Kingdom-heirs, like sons and daughters of the King. This is very different than trying to earn our salvation. We don’t do good works because we hope to be forgiven—we do good works because we are already forgiven. Our good deeds are a sign that His forgiveness is alive and active in our lives. After all, Jesus tells us: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) If a husband loves his wife, he will seek concrete ways to bless her—giving her flowers, doing the dishes, writing her a love note. He would never say: “Well, we’re married, and she knows I love her, so I can now do whatever I want.” Likewise, a soul that has known the merciful love of Jesus will naturally want to please Him. So, to answer your question, Catholics and Protestants are actually much closer on this issue than they know! We both believe that we are saved by faith—by a living faith, which is expressed in a life of good works as a sign of thanksgiving for the lavish, free gift of salvation that Christ won for us on the Cross.
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6) Do you remember hearing these words as a child? They seemed simple enough—just go to your room, close the door, and pray. I remember hearing them and being confused. Simple words, yes, but it just didn’t make sense that we could only say prayers, in our room, by ourselves. But my child-like faith told me to believe these words. As I grew, so did my faith and understanding of this Scripture. I came to realize these beautiful, profound words meant I could go into my room, turn my heart to the Lord, anytime, anywhere. My prayer life blossomed. How wonderful to spend quiet time with our Father and receive His love. Every time I hear these words from Matthew’s Gospel, I appreciate the Lenten season even more. It’s a reminder of God’s love and how much He desires our friendship. Love heals. For me, that’s the reward when I go into my room and pray.
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