November 20, 2017
“As Jesus approached Jericho
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging,
and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.
They told him,
"Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."
He shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!"
The people walking in front rebuked him,
telling him to be silent,
but he kept calling out all the more,
"Son of David, have pity on me!"
Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him;
and when he came near, Jesus asked him,
"What do you want me to do for you?"
He replied, "Lord, please let me see."
Jesus told him, "Have sight; your faith has saved you."
He immediately received his sight
and followed him, giving glory to God.
When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.”
My dear fellow pilgrims,
Last Monday, I wrote about Jesus rebuking His disciples about asking for more faith after He explained some hard teachings. Today, we hear a beautiful healing story from the Gospels about a blind man whose faith, displayed by repeated calls for Jesus’ pity, prompts Jesus to give him back his sight.
A few things strike me as I read today's Gospel:
- “The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more…”
Who are “the people walking in front”? I think we might think of them as those who planned ahead to see Jesus, maybe even the disciples, but they are the people who knew this parade was going to happen and probably felt entitled to run it. This detail is important, because it just goes to show that sometimes the people who seem closest to Jesus do not know Him. These people “in front” might have felt like the blind man was ruining something, but that just shows how they did not heed Jesus’ mission statement of being the Divine Physician; He didn’t come for those who are well, He came for the sick, the needy, the people who are so desperate for healing that they call out, yelling for help, despite having others telling them to be quiet.
- “Then Jesus stopped.” (emphasis added)
Here, it seems like Jesus was testing the blind man’s faith a little. Is his faith strong enough to withstand discouragement from those nearest to Jesus? That is, is his faith in Jesus stronger than his faith in Jesus’ followers? This is a tough one to think about where in our lives we might lose our faith in Jesus after being discouraged or told that we are “too needy” or “asking for too much” by Jesus’ followers.
- “What do you want me to do for you?”
This is one of those quotes from our Lord that can be tinged in ungodly ways in our minds if we are not careful… For example. I’m really tired right now, so I read this at first with Jesus adopting my tired demeanor (like, “Ok… so… WHAT do you want me to do for you?”). But when I take a second and remove my state from what I know about the character of God… this question becomes so much more compassionate and soft. The God of the Universe is letting this blind man ask for His help, opening Himself up to being his servant. This is the heart of God meeting the needy, the Divine Physician asking his patients what is ailing them.
- “Lord, please let me see.” “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”
Here, we see how the Christian life requires determination from us, but in the end, it is always Jesus who heals. Here, we get a little Biblical evidence into the Catholic theology that does not discount man’s own freewill and role in working out his own salvation. God gave us free will to choose Him, and that matters; our choices matter, it’s not a game of pre-destination.
- “He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God.”
And so the blind man is no longer the “blind man,” but the man who was blind but now sees. We have heard that image depicting the transformation within the Christian life (“’twas bliiiiind, but nowwwww I seeeeee…”), but let’s pause here and re-visit it. This man lived in darkness, and honestly, this probably made him a bit more familiar with faith, as he needed faith to move through life without the surety of vision. But now, he can use his sight to be more in touch with the world around him, he can experience things beyond just his own inner world. He can more easily engage with the beauty and the turmoil of the world. Isn’t this true of a deepening relationship with Jesus? Our understanding of the world is attuned more and more to Reality. We are less and less wrapped up in our own selves, grasping for direction, yelling out for guidance amidst our fears of not knowing what is around the corner. Now, this man is not defined by his disability, he is defined by the glory of God working in him.
And then, after he was healed, the man followed Jesus. But, Jesus came to him first, and he noticed Jesus even in his disabled state and used what he had to doggedly chase Jesus down. What can we learn, here? We are never too disabled to seek Jesus. We only need faith, but we need to keep beseeching Him even when it seems like He’s not stopping for us or doesn’t hear us. And then, after He meets us, we need to follow Him all the more fully, giving praise.
Prayers for all of you, that you would not cease calling out to our Lord for help.