The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (18:35-43)
Today we hear the story of a blind man near the city of Jericho. Some of you will recognize the name Jericho because it is the city that was encircled by Joshua and the Israelites. It was known to have high and thick walls and was considered impenetrable by outsiders and enemies. To this impossibly difficult situation the Lord, God of Israel told Joshua and the people to march around the city each day for six days. At the end of each day as they finished their revolution around the city, the priests would blow their horns. On the seventh and final day, Joshua, the priests and the people went around the city seven times and then the priests blew their horns and the people shouted. At this shout, the walls of Jericho began to crumble. The city was quickly overtaken by Joshua and his forces and the enemy within was destroyed.
We wonder how this miraculous event occurred. During our times it’s easy to find specials on history channel or discovery channel where the so-called experts will try to explain the miraculous happenings through natural and explainable means. But that completely misses the point of the reading as it’s given to us in sacred scripture. What Joshua and the Israelites did, had no affect whatsoever on the walls of Jericho. It was faith that brought down those walls. God had given them a command. He did not force it on them. He did not control their movements. He told them what He desired for them and then the Lord waited and observed His people. The faith of Joshua and the Israelites was rewarded swiftly.
So it is to this same city of Jericho that the Lord Jesus Christ appears with his disciples and a whole multitude of people. Yet just outside of the city there was a blind beggar. The beggar had probably sat in that place for many days or many years of his life. The benefit to sitting at the gates of the city is that you would have access to all of the visitors and people who were traveling to or through the city. Yet as the blind beggar sat there he noticed something was different. The noise and the commotion told him so. So he began to inquire and learned that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby and walking towards the city. All of a sudden, this blind man cried out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The people around him were annoyed or irritated, or perhaps they were embarrassed. They told the man to pipe down. They told him to be quiet. So what did the man do in response? He did the only sensible thing and ignored them completely. He cried out with an even louder voice, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” His actions can put us to shame. We are afraid to make the sign of the cross in front of others. We are afraid to bless ourselves or our food before we eat in public. We are afraid to speak of Jesus to others. Yet this man, who had nothing to lose, poured everything he had into his cry to the Lord. And his faith was not in vain.
The Lord stopped and looked directly at the man and asked him a powerful question, “What do you want me to do for you?” The Lord asks his beloved sons and daughters the same question. He stands daily with His heart open to us and He asks us this question. It is asked to each of us in the depths of our hearts. “What do you want me to do for you?” And my beloved brothers and sisters, Christ our Lord is happy to give us whatever our hearts desire if it be for our spiritual growth and salvation.
We learn here that no obstacle can get between Christ and the prayer of the faithful man or woman. In the same place where the people repeated their procession around the city for 7 days, the beggar only repeated himself once. In the same place where God had rewarded the people for their faithfulness after one week, He rewarded the blind man’s faith in an instant. In the place where the people cried out with a loud voice and the Lord heard their cries, now one man cried out with a lone voice and yet was also heard. In the place where God had worked to miraculously and suddenly bring down the walls of the city, He miraculously and suddenly brought down the wall of darkness that had kept the beggar from seeing. And in so doing, the Lord gave physical sight to the blind man while giving spiritual sight to those nearby who had been spiritually blind. The blind man knew the identity of Christ through faith even before he laid eyes on Him and Christ responded to the blind man’s faith generously.
God wants to share so much with us. Where is our faith? When do we go to God? Only in our storms? When do we trust God? When do we lean on God and not on our own understanding?
One of the modern holy elders, Thaddeus of Vitovnica said “We have very little faith in the Lord, very little trust. If we trusted the Lord as much as we trust a friend when we ask him to do something for us, neither we as individuals nor our whole country would suffer so much.”
This faith is not just found when we are under pressure or stress or persecution. It is the profound and consistent walk of daily obedience to Christ. That is living faith. St. John of Kronstadt tells us that it is by looking to the faith of our forefathers and ancestors and the saints of the past that we are inspired to continue our faithful walk. He writes,
“When your faith in the Lord, either during your life and prosperity, or in the time of sickness and at the moment of quitting this life, grows weak, grows dim from worldly vanity or through illness, and from the terrors and darkness of death, then look with the mental eyes of your heart upon the companies of our forefathers, the patriarchs, prophets, and righteous ones: St. Simeon, who took the Lord up in his arms, Job, Anna the Prophetess, and others; the Apostles, prelates, venerable Fathers, martyrs, the disinterested, the righteous, and all the saints. See how, both during their earthly life and at the time of their departure from this life, they unceasingly looked to God and died in the hope of the resurrection and of the life eternal, and strive to imitate them. These living examples, which are so numerous, are capable to strengthen the wavering faith of every Christian in the Lord and in the future life.”
And let us add to this list, the example of the beggar who cried out to the Lord in his blindness. May his example inspire us to cry out for healing. AMEN.