Luke 6: 39-45
The parables that Jesus offers in today’s gospel have one thing in common. They are all concerned with the qualities required for authentic discipleship. The “blind” who cannot lead others are essentially the same as the hypocrites, who cannot see their own faults but are always ready to point out the shortcomings of others. Those who resist personal conversion are in no position to lead others to conversion. And a false heart cannot be a truthful and effective witness.
What is really at issue here is one’s willingness to live in reality. The person who chooses to live in illusion cannot be helpful in leading others to reality, where alone salvation can be found. Jesus chose reality when he took a path of loving service, which led him to pain and death but also to joy and life.
In the real world, our freedom is for loving and caring, but this is often painful. Hence the almost irresistible temptation to create an illusory world where pride and control can dominate and where pain can be avoided, at least temporarily. Jesus urges us to choose instead the reality of a converted heart producing the rich fruit of kindness and gentleness and freedom.
All this can be seen more clearly when we consider some classic illusions and the following list is by no means exhaustive.
There is the illusion of self-sufficiency, which blinds us to the reality of our interdependence. We need others, and they need us. We do not find reality by looking in the mirror or by talking to ourselves or by refusing to hear others.
A common and destructive illusion is that of low self-esteem, which focuses so exclusively on one’s shortcomings that one is paralyzed and gradually slips into the tragic situation of victim-hood. The reality is that we can all contribute something unique and precious, even if it is only a gentle touch or a generous smile.
Then there is the illusion of indispensability, which leads us to believe that we are irreplaceable. Our contribution may be very significant, but it is always a shock to see how quickly we can be replaced, and even more so if our job is simply eliminated.
A particularly dangerous illusion is that of thinking we are not prejudiced. Everyone is prejudiced in some way and the worst prejudice of all is not to recognize the fact of personal bias. These deeply ingrained attitudes can easily distort our vision of life and will cause us to be narrow-minded and judgmental.
Another common illusion is that of immortality, which prevents us from being realistic about health care and which leads to denial or rationalizations in regard to bad health habits. This illusion is especially dangerous among the young, who often take risks that are foolish and life-threatening.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.