Monday, May 27, 2013


“The Blind Leading the Blind” by Pieter van der Heyden,c. 1561


When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear;
  so do one's faults when one speaks.
As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace,
  so in tribulation is the test of the just.
The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had;
  so too does one's speech disclose the bent of one's mind.
Praise no one before he speaks,
  for it is then that people are tested.
Commentary on Sir 27:4-7

In this passage the author addresses dangers to human integrity and friendship with three analogies.  The analogy of the shaken sieve refers to the process of separating good grain from husks (or refuses from the Greek kopria). The grain is passed through the sieve but the refuse is thrown away or burned.  The analogy is mindful of the St. John the Baptist’s references to the threshing floor (Matthew 3:12) where the wheat remains but the chaff is burned.  The second analogy, the potter's test, is consistent with the theme of the just being tested through tribulations (see also Sirach 2:5; Wisdom 3:5-6; 1 Peter 1:7).

The passage clarifies what will be considered by God and others to be the fruits of integrity, the words uttered by a person define the person’s heart to others.  Similarly Jesus will also take up this topic as he states “It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” (Matthew 15:11)


R. (cf. 2a) Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
  to sing praise to your name. Most High,
to proclaim your kindness at dawn
  and your faithfulness throughout the night.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
  like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
  shall flourish in the courts of our God.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
 They shall bear fruit even in old age;
  vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
declaring how just is the Lord,
  my rock, in whom there is no wrong.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

Psalm 92 is a song of thanksgiving. The psalmist sees God’s gifts pouring onto the faithful and in doing so, those who dwell with the Lord will flourish and bear fruit. In their faith there is great strength and endurance in God’s great wholesomeness.


Brothers and sisters:
When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility
  and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality,
  then the word that is written shall come about:
     Death is swallowed up in victory.
     Where, O death, is your victory?
     Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin,
  and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God who gives us the victory
  through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters,
   be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord,
   knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Commentary on 1 Cor 15:54-58

This passage is St. Paul’s hymn of victory over death. It concludes his discourse on the resurrection. When the bodies of the elect, by resurrection or change become incorrupt, death is defeated, prophecy is fulfilled (Isaiah 25:8), and the final victory is won. He loosely quotes Hosea 13:14 in which the “sting” of death is vanquished; a reference to the venomous sting of a serpent’s bit, the allegory to sin. The serpent without its sting can no longer harm those clothed in Christ.

St. Paul sees this as a perversion of the Law by which sin was defined and applied but without giving mankind the strength to avoid the sins so defined (see also Romans 7:7-25). The hard work of the faithful Christian is not in vain as Christ’s victory is granted and salvation assured.


Jesus told his disciples a parable,
   "Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?
No disciple is superior to the teacher;
  but when fully trained,
   every disciple will be like his teacher.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye,
   but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother,
   'Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,'
   when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own
You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
   then you will see clearly
   to remove the splinter in your brother's eye.
 "A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
   nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
 For every tree is known by its own fruit.
 For people do not pick figs from thornbushes,
   nor do they gather grapes from brambles.
 A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart
     produces good,
   but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil;
   for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."
Commentary on Lk 6:39-45

St. Luke continues Jesus’ dialogue from the “Sermon on the Plain” concerning the judgment of others. Taking his disciples aside he tells them that in time they will assume his role in proclaiming the Gospel (“…but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher”). The exhortation that follows is not intended to say that they should not notice the failings of others; that would be inconsistent with Matthew 7:5,6. Rather “…against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of one's own faults.”[3]

The passage concludes Jesus’ discourse on judgment of others using the analogy of the fruits born by a tree – good and bad. The intent of this allegory was to expose false prophets – hypocrites who say one thing but do another. "What matters is not whether or not we wear a religious habit; it is whether we try to practice the virtues and surrender our will to God and order our lives as His Majesty ordains, and not want to do our will but his" (St Teresa of Avila, "Interior Castle", II, 6).[4]


I recently met a man while on a trip to the North Country.  He was standing outside my hotel room as I checked out and he seemed ordinary enough.  He had a really pretty black Labrador Retriever on a leash laying at his feet.  I had come and gone to the room a couple times, bringing out bags when he struck up a conversation.  I commented on hid dog and he told me it was the first time he had been off-leash which surprised me because he was clearly on a leash.  It was then that the man told me he was blind and the dog was in fact a leader dog.   I did not realize the man was blind until he told me.

It begs the question, in light of today’s Gospel from St. Luke, how do we know if those we meet are blind?  Or perhaps even a better question; how do we know when we are blind?  The Lord speaks to us  about being judgmental; of making determinations about others before we understand completely their situations.  Like the blind man who didn’t seem blind, how often do we assume others are blind without trying to understand where their apparent blindness comes from?

As disciples of Christ we are called to treat every person we meet with the dignity that should be afforded to a son or daughter of God.  We are told, in no uncertain terms, that we must not be deceived by appearances or, as the Lord himself showed us as he was tempted in the desert, not to be fooled by smooth speech and overly generous offers.  We are called to examine our own motives and standards. 

Taking the Gospel from Luke with the analogies from Sirach we must draw one piece of wisdom from what we have heard today; embrace God’s wisdom for ourselves, praying for God’s grace and peace and do not set a bar for the behavior of others we ourselves cannot achieve.


[1] The picture is “The Blind Leading the Blind” by Pieter van der Heyden,c. 1561

[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL).  This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.

[3] See NAB footnote on Matthew 7:1

[4] The Navarre Bible, “Gospels and Acts”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2002, pp. 396

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