For about 1500 years, from the time of Moses, down to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, Jewish worship was centered on ritual sacrifice. There was a particularly designated sacrifice for every life circumstance, and each was grounded by a key insight into human nature.
For example, every morning began with what was called the “holocaust sacrifice.” Here, an unblemished lamb and a loaf of the finest bread were burned by flame on the altar. Then a cup of choice wine was poured into the ground. Symbolically, by these actions, people were giving back to God food and drink necessary for their lives. In effect they were declaring that every blessing comes from God and invites their gratitude. They were indeed a wise people!
The Hebrews made other sacrifices too, sacrifices of praise and harvest thanksgiving. Sacrifices to atone for sin and to win wars and achieve peace. Each of these rites had its own prescribed words and actions to be carried out with great care and detail.
One of the most interesting of these ritual ceremonies was the Jewish sacrifice for “unknown sins.” This was more that just a bit of insurance in case someone had skipped the fine print and broken some rule of which he or she was unaware. This sacrifice for “unknown sins” came from something the wise old rabbis had learned about human nature – namely, that sometimes we are spiritually blind!
“Spiritually blind!” When I taught psychology to high school students, I shared with them the fact that we all have a “blind spot” in our vision. Many students didn't believe me, but a simple test proved me right. There is a spot on the retina of our eyes where there are no receptor cells reporting what we see. It's the spot where the optic nerve enters the interior brain. It's really a blind spot! But we're ordinarily not aware of it because our other eye compensates for the loss.
By “spiritual blindness,” I mean we sometimes don't see ourselves clearly and accurately. We don't see how our words and actions affect others adversely. We don't see our own character flaws, though others see them clearly. This blindness is a hazard to our relationships and to our spiritual growth. This spiritual blindness may be the result of pride, or a feeling of superiority when comparing ourselves to others, or even an unrecognized fear of not living up to other people's expectations.
One way for us to overcome this spiritual blindness is to ask a good and trusted friend to assess us, to tell us honestly what we are not noticing about ourselves in our words and actions. Another way is to pray over the matter, to ask God to help us see ourselves as honestly as God sees us.
It may well be time for us to cry out with the blind beggar in today's Gospel, “Jesus, I want to see! I am ready to see whatever is there to see. Help me recognize my hidden sins, my unknown faults, the things that are keeping me from being the genuine disciple both You and I want me to be!” AMEN!