[Homily. Assumption Chapel. Monday, November 18, 2019. Based on Luke 18:35-43.]
We are in the week before the great Solemnity of Christ the King.
In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus describes the end times. The great Temple will be totally leveled; not one stone will remain on another stone. False prophets will emerge. Wars, insurrections, earthquakes, and plagues will occur. There will also be persecutions of the Christian community. With all this, however, the Spirit will be active to support those who are loyal to their faith. He will help Christians to persevere in their faith in Jesus and in their hope in the compassion of the Father.
On the Feast of Christ the King, in our Liturgical Year C, the original biblical picture of Christ the King emerges. Not that of a King in medieval robes regaled in crown and scepter, but the picture of one whose Kingship was originally manifested on a Cross. Above the Crucified Lord a sign read, “This is the King of the Jews” (Lk 23:38). It was meant to mock. But in his having emptied himself, humbled himself, and become obedient, even to death on the Cross, the sign pointed to the One whom God raised up, exalted, giving him the name above every name…” (cf. Phil 2:67).
Between these two Sundays, we are invited to contemplate the story of a blind man’s encounter with Jesus.
Jesus is still on his journey to Jerusalem. A blind man hears the commotion and asks what is happening. He had heard of Jesus; he had heard he was a healer; this was his chance. He calls out: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The people, however, rebuke him. But he shouts out all the more. “Son of David, have pity on me!” Jesus orders that he be brought to him. “What do you want me to do for you,” he asks. “Lord, that I might see,” the blind man replies. “See!” the Lord commands. “Your faith has saved you.” He was immediately able to see, followed Jesus, and gave glory to God. The people too praised God.
Might the story of the blind man remind us of ourselves? So often we sit in darkness, unable to see. We are too rational to understand the warnings in yesterday’s apocalyptic description of the end times. We relegate it to the realm of pious verbiage in order to push away from our minds the passing nature of the world and the passing condition of our lives. Everyday, we hear of wars, insurrections, earthquakes, and plagues. But we are content to explain all through natural laws and the chaos of fortuitous events. We are blind to the signs in their occurrence, the ciphers of God moving in events of our times to help us see as he wishes us to see and to do as he wills. In a world where the Christian message is spurned and made fun of, we do everything as Christians to keep our cool, maintain our respectability, and avoid ridicule or persecution. Instead of trusting in the Spirit to speak for us in times of crisis, we trust in our rationalizations, our theories, and philosophies, where we believe we are more in control, but blind ourselves to the light of the Spirit. The Feast of Christ the King? So what? We find ourselves unmoved by the upcoming Feast of a King, whose kingship I do not allow to touch me. In my world of important concerns, I am blind to his presence, unmoved by his will, blind to what Jesus was pointing out when he said, “The Kingdom of God is already in your midst” (Lk 17:21).
Between yesterday’s Gospel and the Feast of Christ the King, our prayer might be, “Lord, have pity on me!” Over and over, I might repeat, “Lord have pity on me!” And pray, “That I might see!”
Your consideration of the blind man may be followed by a consideration of the people, the onlookers, the crowd. Their response to the blind man calling to the Lord for pity was of rebuke. They were offended or embarrassed by this unseeing, unsightly, neglected human being calling out from the forgotten peripheries of our life to the Lord for pity; so they rebuked him. He should be quiet, they demanded. He was not worthy to disturb this well-reputed traveler on his way to Jerusalem. Like so many people in life who are embarrassed by one approaching the Lord for help! Your approaching the Lord suggests I approach the Lord as well, and that disturbs me; so I rebuke you, that you may not lead me into the light that rebukes my life of sin, or the insensitivity of my lifestyle. I rebuke you, that I may continue to feel I have no need for pity. I rebuke you, that in my blindness I may not be threatened by the signs that are disclosed to me personally. I rebuke you that I might continue to jeer at the Crucified King and say, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself!” (Lk 23:39), rather than pray, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom!” (Lk 23: 42).
Finally, we consider the Lord. This was he who had come to announce the Kingdom of God, and who was on his way now to Jerusalem to establish it – and suffer its heavy cost. He had said, “I come to bring life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10). He had said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6) He had also said, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God” (Jn 3: 19-21). Here Jesus himself explains why in our gospel reading “the people” rebuked the blind man for wanting to see. In their blindness, they were themselves afraid of the light, that it might expose their history of evil deeds. But this blind man attracted to Jesus was not to be deprived of the light. “Lord, that I might see,” he prayed. Jesus replied, “See! Your faith has saved you.”
Between certitude of the apocalypse and the celebration of Christ the King, our prayer is that of the blind man, “Lord, that I may see.”