Blind to our own prejudice

27 February, 2022 8th Sunday, Year C

Jesus confronts a very human reality, namely, the tendency to notice the failings of others while being blind to our own: “Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?” The solution is also clearly stated by Jesus: “Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter in your brother’s eye!”

This is related to what is sometimes called the “scapegoat syndrome”, that is the even more insidious way humans place all responsibility for the world’s ills onto others without taking any personal responsibility. On a global scale this is expressed in terms of racism whether directed to Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Africans, Asians, Indigenous people or others. The anti-Semitic attitudes of Nazis (and neo-Nazis) is a particular case in point resulting, as we know, with the extermination of millions of Jews.

The scapegoat syndrome is also alive and well in the theatre of Australian politics: it is always the ‘other’ political party rather than one’s own that is attempting to destroy the Australian economy, ignore people’s real needs and, if in government, will surely destroy our entire Australian way-of-life!

The scapegoating technique also works well in families, offices and market-place – just about anywhere human beings find themselves! When things go wrong, how quick we can be to name the ‘other’, the culprit rather than admit our own actions, attitudes and behaviours might have something to do with the negative state of affairs. This is not to deny the reality that, sometimes, other people are to blame. But today Jesus is having us focus on the many more times we judge others while being blind to our own failings.

Significant among Jesus’ miracles is the healing of blindness. Mark’s account of Jesus’ curing the blind man at Bethsaida is revealing in the way the process takes time. At first, the blind man sees, but only partially: “I see men walking around like trees.” It is only when Jesus touches his eyes again that the man sees everything clearly [Mark 8: 22-26]. Curing spiritual blindness is also a process that takes time, effort and God’s grace.

Yet, as with any disease, we must recognise the condition and want to be healed. There are still too many Australians refusing to admit our political policies and human attitudes to migrants and refugees are, in part, scapegoating mechanisms. We also have to reckon with our history which advocated a “White Australia Policy” and treated our Indigenous peoples so poorly. We must stop the blame-game if we are to move towards genuine reconciliation and human goodness.

Jesus’ other statement about the sound tree producing good fruit, and the rotten tree bad fruit, is compelling. We are called to ongoing conversion if we are to be cured of our own blindness and open our hearts to people who are ‘other’ and ‘different’ to ourselves.

Gerard Hall SM

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