The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (9:27-35)
Today’s reading reminds me of another gospel passage which is read soon after the celebration of Pascha, on the Sunday of the Blind Man. Today we hear of not one but two blind men who were together. We never learn exactly how they learned about Jesus but one thing was for certain, they knew who He was and they were motivated to have an encounter with Him. They cried out to Him loudly with these words that should be so familiar to us, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”
Why should these words be familiar to us? Because they are a part of the very fabric, the DNA of Orthodox Christian prayer. This is seen and heard repeatedly throughout all of our liturgical services and especially in the liturgy. The phrase which is repeated more often than any other is precisely this “Lord have mercy!” We say this so often and yet like anything, sometimes it is good to step back and to ask ourselves “what does it really mean?” It means to have pity or compassion. In praying this prayer we pray it with an assumption that we don’t have much to offer to God, but that we are in dire need of whatever it is that He is willing to offer to us. We should model our prayers after those who successfully petitioned the Son of God for such things.
How do we model our prayers? By aligning our hearts with the hearts of those who cried out to the Lord with everything within them. They didn’t reserve anything of themselves and their desire for Christ. Repeatedly throughout the gospels we see men and women like us who pour out their pains and struggles to the Lord and repeatedly we see the Lord Jesus respond with precisely what they seek. He offers them healing. He offers them fulfillment. And yes, He offers them mercy.
So how do we align our hearts to be like those who asked with confidence and received? We start with humility. If you notice the blind men never actually asked to be healed of their blindness. They were truly humble and truly faithful men. You don’t have to tell God exactly what you need, He knows what you need even before you open your mouth! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pray and ask. It means that you should pray with humility and faith. Humility that God knows what is best for us and faith that God is able to provide for us. The blind men don’t ask for healing of their blindness because they don’t have to. They truly believe that Jesus is the Christ, the long awaited Messiah and they ask for mercy knowing that the Lord will give them whatever is good according to His will for their lives. That is an example of faithful humility. They ask for mercy and trust God to give them what is good.
It turns out that the thing that is most good is in fact mercy. When we have mercy from God, even mercy from others, we feel that everything is right in the world and in our lives. We run to the Lord in prayers in a way that invites the Lord to work in our lives. What is required is humility, an understanding of our own brokenness. The blind men could cry out to the Lord because they knew their own infirmity. They knew their own brokenness. They knew their desperate need for Him. How do we pray? Sometimes we have trouble praying for more than a minute without feeling distracted or bored. Sometimes we pray for help from God and then we go about our business trying to make things happen, forcing things that may or may not be God’s will. Sometimes we pray to God and then go about our lives living in open rebellion to God, in disobedience to His teachings.
King David, the prophet wrote “a broken and humbled heart God will not despise.” When we pray to God and ask for anything we should do it in a way that invites Christ to help us. We should pray as if there are no other options, no other solutions. Pray like nothing else matters. Don’t pray and keep one eye on the clock. Pray and forget whether you are in the body or out of the body. Pray as if the only thing that matters is that God will hear you. Because if God hears you, nothing else will matter.
So this is why we pray such prayers frequently and with repetition such as “Lord have mercy”, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, a sinner” and so forth. They are prayers that get to the heart of the matter. When they are combined with a small bit of humility and faith, even the faith like a mustard seed, these are prayers that get to the heart of God. This is our meeting place with God, the heart. St. Dorotheos of Gaza writes “In the mercy of God, the little thing done with humility will enable us to be found in the same place as the saints who have labored much and been true servants of God.”
The blind men cried out from their hearts and after the Lord asked them if they believed, they answered from their hearts. We can say that they believed, that they saw Christ with their spiritual eyes. That they would see him with their physical eyes was the next natural step in Christ’s divine wisdom.
It was Christ’s good pleasure to heal their blindness. It is Christ’s good pleasure to heal our blindness and every other sickness within us, the physical and especially the spiritual. But let us turn to the Lord with everything in our hearts. Let us learn how to completely give ourselves to Him in prayer and without distraction, without grumbling over our situation, without complaining and without watching the calendar or the clock in order to time God. This is why it is important that the Lord says to the two men “According to your faith be it done for you.” If we don’t believe much it becomes difficult to receive much. For this reason it is even good to ask God to increase our faith just as the Apostles did (Luke 17:5).
I would like to leave you with this beautiful quote from St. Symeon the New Theologian. He writes, “To have faith in Christ means more than simply despising the delights of this life. It means we should bear all our daily trials that may bring us sorrow, distress, or unhappiness, and bear them patiently for as long as God wishes and until He comes to visit us. For it is said, ‘I waited on the Lord and He came to me.’” AMEN.