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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Beware of Blind Guides

Robert Barron - Beware of Blind Guides

Robert Barron - Beware of Blind Guides
TOPICS: Spiritual Blindness

Peace be with you. Friends, our Gospel for today is taken from the very end of Luke's Sermon on the Plain. So in Matthew, Jesus gives his definitive teaching on a mountain, the Sermon on the Mount. In Luke's Gospel, his version has Jesus speaking on a plain. So we've been following his great teaching and we come now to the end of it, where he has a lot of strong things to say about spiritual teachers and spiritual guides. Mind you, he's been operating here as the definitive spiritual teacher. If you're looking for the criterion, here it is. It's Jesus himself teaching. But now he's commenting on spiritual teachers we might choose after him, after he's been raised from the dead, and who are they? What are they like? Which ones are trustworthy? Which ones aren't?

We get some, I think, really good lessons from this little section. I'd say this. Anyone that is acquainted with TV and especially social media today, there are a lot of people claiming to be gurus and teachers and spiritual guides. I mean, they're a dime a dozen, they're thick on the ground. So we got to be careful. Paul talks about discerning the spirits. Well, we have to also discern spiritual teachers. Whom are we going to follow and why? Well, listen now to the Lord. "Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit"? Well, that's a pretty good image, isn't it? If you're spiritually blind, you don't know where you're going. The last person to choose is someone as blind as you are because he's going to lead you nowhere good.

In fact, the scholars say the pit that Jesus refers to here would be a deep well. So it's not just a little inconvenience but someone leading you into a deadly place. You fall down a well, you're a blind person, I mean you could kill yourself. Well, it's true, if I can be blunt. You put your hands in the wrong kind of spiritual teacher, they can lead to a spiritual death, the blind leading the blind. So the question is, is the person to whom you've entrusted your life and your heart and your mind, soul blind? Or is that person a visionary? Do they know where to take you or not? Are they as lost as you are? Jesus says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life". So again, Jesus is the spiritual teacher par excellence. So in a way, this question's rather simple to answer. Is your spiritual guide someone who is surrendered to Christ? Is your spiritual guide a disciple of the Lord Jesus? Has he or she surrendered his or her life to Christ? That's the criterion.

Now, I'm not implying for a moment that there aren't truths, even profound truths, in other religions and spiritual traditions. There are, Vatican II teaches that. But you're looking for the full truth. You're looking for the bright light. Christ is the light of the world. And those who teach in his name and follow his path, they're the ones you want to follow. How about this? "No disciple is superior to his teacher, but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher". Good, good. Whom do you want to be like? We want to be like Christ. Therefore, find a teacher who's conformed to Christ. Someone at odds with Christ, that's not the person to entrust your life to, because if you follow that person faithfully you'll become like him. Find someone who's a clear disciple of the Lord. He's the one to follow, or she's the one to follow.

I like this next quality. A good spiritual teacher is someone who acknowledges his own need for a Savior. Let me say that again. A good spiritual guide is someone who acknowledges his own need for a Savior. The one who will best lead you to Christ is someone whom Christ has saved. And that person knows it. Very important, isn't it? Hey, I'm looking for salvation. I'm looking to follow the Lord. I'm looking for the path of discipleship. Well, follow someone who's been saved and who knows it. I've shared before that definition I love of evangelization is one starving person telling another starving person where to find bread. In other words, the best evangelist is someone who's been evangelized, who was lost and then was found, who was starving and then found food. That's the person you want to follow, the one who's been saved. And Jesus uses this memorable and actually pretty funny image to express this.

Listen. "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 eye"? Funny, as I say, because you're talking about a spiritual teacher that wants to perform the delicate operation of removing a splinter from your eye. That means their vision's got to be super clear, unobstructed. They've got to be able to see these little fine details to remove that splinter. But the images, think about a beam of wood coming out of someone's eye. It's not a splinter or a sliver, it's a beam of wood. They're so blind to their own problem, their own need for salvation. But yet they're presuming to tell you how to be saved. That is ipso facto a bad spiritual guide. And I think it's actually fairly easy to see. It manifests itself as a spiritual arrogance.

Think of all the people, again, go online, you'll find an army of them, who are very eager to tell you what's wrong with your spiritual life, very eager to tell you, "here's the problem". They're great diagnosticians in the spiritual order. But have they been healed? Do they acknowledge that they were and are sinners who stood and stand in need of a Savior? Those whom the Lord has healed who then become themselves healers. If you're dealing with a healer who's not been healed, watch out. That's dangerous territory to be entering. You give someone who's got a wooden beam coming out of his eye the privilege of operating on the little splinter in your eye? Well, you deserve that person, I suppose. So be sensitive, be sensitive to this fact. Is the person I've entrusted my life to someone who's been saved and knows it? Otherwise, trouble.

Here's another image I love, now from this closing section of the Sermon on the Plain. "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". That's a simple but really good and important spiritual principle. Long ago, the great Greek philosopher Aristotle taught, "Don't listen to what people say. Watch what people do". In other words, you're trying to figure out someone's character. What kind of person is that? Well, they can say a lot of things. They'll tell you all kinds of things about themselves; all right, maybe that's right, maybe it's wrong. But you know what doesn't lie? Their behavior. Watch what they do. See them in action. That will tell you the kind of person you're dealing with.

In my many years of working in the seminary, doing vocation work, helping these young guys discern their vocation, especially when I was rector, so when I was in charge of the seminary, students would come to me and they'd say, "Father, I love the liturgy, and the Mass means everything to me," or, "The Liturgy of the Hours, I have no trouble with that. I love praying the Office," or, "Father, I'm really dedicated to the poor, working with the poor. That means the world to me". Okay. Yeah, I'll take you at your word and I'll believe you, but see, I wasn't so much focused on their words because people say a lot of things. I would then watch them. So over the course of the year or couple years, several years, that guy told me he loves the liturgy and yet he misses Mass three or four times a week.

Yeah, I know that guy told me he's... boy, the Liturgy of the Hours, it means the world to him, but yet he's not at our common prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. Yeah, he told me he loves the poor, but yet we've had all kinds of pastoral opportunities to go down to the city of Chicago and to serve the poor directly. And he's only once in a while done that. What do I believe? What he said or what he did? Oh, Aristotle had it right, didn't he? So, you're looking for someone who'll be a spiritual guide. They might say a lot of things, even good things. Take that with a grain of salt. Watch him, watch her in action. Does he demonstrate in his life the fruits of the Holy Spirit?

See, what everyone is looking for in spiritual guidance is finally the Holy Spirit. That's what you want for spiritual direction. You want the Spirit in you. Well, you don't want the blind leading the blind. You want someone who's got the Spirit. You want someone that knows that he needed a Savior. You want someone who's aligned to the light of Christ, and therefore somebody who is exhibiting clearly in his or her life these fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace. What are they like as you watch them? Maybe they've even told you a lot of good and wise things, but as you watch them, what's it like? Don't listen to what they say, watch what they do. And you'll know if someone has the Holy Spirit.

So as we come to the end of this section of Luke, the Sermon on the Plain, and we've heard the teaching of Jesus, and now if we're serious spiritually, we're endeavoring to take this into our lives. And so we need spiritual guides, whether it's preachers, spiritual directors, the priests. How do you do it? Attend to this last section, and I might put special stress finally on the splinter and the beam principle. If you want to entrust to someone this delicate responsibility of trying to remove the splinter from your eye, make sure it's not someone with a beam coming out of his own eye. Make sure it's somebody who's been saved and who knows it. Make sure it's a sinner who stood in need of salvation and found it. Make sure it's a starving person like you who found bread. That's the one you should trust. And God bless you.
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