Arts and Culture

Christmas Can Remove Blind Spots

by Father Robert Lauder

Seventh in a series

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY at St. John’s University, Jamaica, one of my tasks is helping students see reality objectively, seeing the way things really are. Not an easy task for students or indeed for anyone. I suspect that all of us have blind spots — some easy to overcome, others not so easy. One of the important benefits I am finding in my re-reading of Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011, pp. 362) is that the Holy Father is helping me to see more deeply into the mystery of Jesus. The pope’s writing is challenging some of my blind spots.

There may be several obstacles that make it difficult for us to see things as they really are, to see reality without distorting, twisting or even missing its meaning entirely. Seeing reality deeply and grasping its most profound meanings may require a kind of asceticism, a kind of purification and liberation that frees and enables us to have the courage to face the most profound truths about ourselves, others and God. I suppose that the first step to overcoming blindness is to become aware of our blind spots.

Perhaps one obstacle that causes blindness to what is most important is self-centeredness and selfishness, preoccupation with our own interests and neglect of others. I know I have spent my entire life battling selfishness. Often I feel like St. Paul not doing the good that I want to do and doing the evil that I do not want to do. Maybe all sin is a matter of choosing self over God. Perhaps the most basic statement I can make about God and myself is this: There is a God, and I am not He!

Another source of blindness may be due to the groups to which we belong, ranging from our families to other people with whom in some way we coexist. My experience has been that children may be exposed to the best catechetical programs available, but if their parents do not attend the Eucharist regularly, eventually the children will drift away. The fact that we live in a society that in various ways presents a secular humanistic view can influence us deeply. For example, I am very interested in film, but I have great difficulty finding films that support my Christian faith or present a view of religion that makes religion seem intelligent and attractive.

Perhaps the most serious blindness in our society is the widespread blindness for the need for God. We are made for God. Our minds and our wills are oriented toward God. I like the expression that “we are magnetized by God.” Nothing less than God will ever satisfy us. Every contemporary Catholic theologian that I read says that people have to be helped to reflect on the deep questions, to ask themselves about what their life ultimately means, what is the direction that they have chosen in their lives.

As a priest, I struggle with how I can help people confront and reflect on what is important in their lives. Obviously, one way that I can try to do this is through the Sunday homily. However, many who may be blind to spiritual reality are not present at Mass.

I love Christmastime, and I am delighted that each year in spite of the commercialism that surrounds Christmas, the feast seems to touch many deeply. It is difficult to celebrate Christmas and not at least momentarily reflect on what God has done for us through Christ. The meaning and mystery of Christmas has the power to challenge our blindness if we allow that to happen. Pope Benedict writes the following:

“The Cross has become God’s glorification, the glory of God made manifest in the love of the Son. This glory extends beyond the moment into the whole sweep of history. This glory is life. It is on the Cross that we see it, hidden yet powerful: the glory of God, the transformation of death into life.

“From the Cross, new life comes to us. On the cross, Jesus becomes the source of life for himself and for all. On the Cross, death is conquered.” (pp. 166-167)

Christmas can remove blind spots and open our eyes to the deepest meanings of the Incarnation. The love manifest in the baby’s birth among us will eventually make manifest the love that led to the cross and beyond the cross to the resurrection and the conquest of death.[hr] Father Robert Lauder, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn and philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica, writes a weekly column for the Catholic Press.