The other morning I started to read my daily devotions and I realized that the words weren’t quite as clear as I would have liked. Then I remembered to put on my reading glasses and the words were crystal clear. Oh, I could have read without them, but it was certainly easier with them on. It made me pause and think about my need for glasses back when I turned 40. I went from 20/10 to 20/40 eyesight, but it was a very slow process. It went so slowly in fact that I didn’t realize things had changed. But, when Ashley started reading road signs way before I could make out the words, I began to understand that my eyes had changed. I still remember the day I put on those new glasses and looked at the mountains…wow; I could see them so very clearly. I didn’t know what I had been missing for the past several years.
Our spiritual eyes can also grow weak with the same type of slowness so that we don’t even realize what we are missing. Our spiritual vision can become totally centered on “me” and my wants/desires…losing sight of everything else around us.
In the Gospel of Luke (16:19-31) there is a story about a rich man who got so caught up with himself that he could not see the poor beggar, Lazarus, lying outside his gate. His spiritual eyes (and perhaps his physical eyes) managed to overlook the need right before him. He focused on his own needs for food, drink, and clothing.
The Fathers of our Faith have explained to us that everyone has “Blameless Passions” which are God given and not evil. We hunger and so we eat; we thirst and so we drink; we have need of love and so we enter into relationships with other people; we have need of clothing and so we purchase clothes to wear. But, it is exactly in these “blameless passions” that the enemy of our souls attacks us. Our hunger can give way to gluttony, and so on.
Our need for love can lead to an obsession with beauty. I recently saw a video on how the cover model of a teen magazine was created. They took a normal looking model and through technology changed her body and her face to what they thought the perfect “beauty” would look like. This was no real person, but was now on the cover as the role model for every young girl to be like. That obsession with beauty can become a lifelong attempt to look like that cover-girl who never existed. The definition for beauty becomes: “That which I am not.”
When these “blameless passions” begin to control us, they are no longer “blameless” for us. It is an easy thing to want more and more of something and when we cannot have it, a craving sets in.
Consider for a moment, my favorite craving: Chocolate. Ashley purchased a bag of Snicker bars (I hear it is the #1 selling candy in America right now) and placed them in a bowl. Hmmm…could I walk by those precious morsels without grabbing one? Actually, I was grabbing two or three. You may have seen the latest Snickers commercial: “You are not you when you are hungry!” The point of the ad is very simple. Eat the Snicker bar and you will be back to normal! Really? What is there in the corn syrup, sugar, etc that would have that ability to transform me back to normal? Have you ever stopped to think about the actual name of that candy bar: “Snicker”? I fear that is exactly what the enemy of our souls does every time our passions begin to control us (like when I grab 2 or 3 of them).
Now this “An UpWord Glance” is not about food. It is about our “blameless passions” becoming perverted. Our spiritual vision can become so blurred that all we can see is “me”…my needs…my wants…my desires. I can end up so focused on me and my wants that I cannot see the great needs that might be around me. I only want what is “good” for me.
All of that brings us back to the rich man who could not see Lazarus lying by his gate. His “blameless passions” had taken control of him. He was consumed by what was best for “me”…me, me, me…it is all about me. The world exists for “me” and all that I have is for “me”. He could no longer see beyond “me”.
Amazingly, that same thought can take hold of people even when it comes to Church. The Church exists for “me”…to meet my needs and my wants. It is all about me. In actuality, the Church is there for each one of us. We come to find healing for our wounds, to grow spiritually in our relationship with God, to become whole in every sense of that word. But for what purpose did God bless us with His Church? Certainly, it is not simply to heap more and more blessings on “me” like the rich man. We are blessed so that we in turn might bless others.
The communities we live in have many people that might be called “Lazarus” who are living in our neighborhood in spiritual poverty. There also may be a “Lazarus” or two attending our own Church this Sunday. Their needs may far out-weigh our wants. May our spiritual eyes be opened to see them and then to serve them out of the spiritual riches that God has given us. What might have happened to that rich man if he had just stopped just long enough to talk with Lazarus?
St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church 1010 Spruce St * Pueblo, Colorado * 81004