Sunday, November 13, 2016

Lord, Please Let Me See

The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks in the midst of the seven gold lampstands says this: “I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked; you have tested those who call themselves Apostles but are not, and discovered that they are impostors. Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”  Revelation 2:2-5

“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.”  Luke 18:39C-42

Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD and meditates on his law day and night.  Psalm 1:1-2

In this penultimate (second to last) week of the Liturgical year, we start off our readings with a few passages from the last book in the Bible, the Revelation to John. Recall the context of this book:

The book is an exhortation and admonition to Christians of the first century to stand firm in the faith and to avoid compromise with paganism, despite the threat of adversity and martyrdom; they are to await patiently the fulfillment of God’s mighty promises. The triumph of God in the world of men and women remains a mystery, to be accepted in faith and longed for in hope. It is a triumph that unfolded in the history of Jesus of Nazareth and continues to unfold in the history of the individual Christian who follows the way of the cross, even, if necessary, to a martyr’s death.[i]

The specific letter to Ephesus that is a part of today’s reading praises the members of the church there for their works and virtues, including discerning false teachers.  However, it then reprimands them to repent and return to their former practices.   

How ironic that the one person in the Gospel of Luke who “sees” and recognizes the Messianic role of Jesus is the blind man.  However, those who are closest to Jesus admonish him to be quiet.  The reading in Revelation admonishes the Apostles to repent and return to the works they had been doing previously.  In the Gospel, the person who has been tested the most (the blind man) and exemplifies the strongest faith is almost thwarted in his faith by the Apostles. 

The blind beggar identifies Jesus with a title that is related to the Lord’s role as Messiah.  Back in the opening of Luke’s Gospel, there are some clues to why this phrase is so important. The basic message of the Nativity story is contained in the angel’s announcement: this Christ-child is the savior, Messiah, and Lord.  Through this “Son of David” salvation (sight) comes to the blind man.

Even further back in Luke’s Gospel, we hear the connection between salvation and house of David mentioned in the Canticle of Zechariah’s.  “[The Lord God] has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant.”  (Luke 1:69).  That Messiah is the same one who restored the voice to Zechariah so his son could become the voice crying out in the wilderness.  Now, the Messiah restores vision to the blind beggar. 

The notes from the New American Bible’s introduction of the Book of Revelation explain that “In the face of apparently insuperable evil, either from within or from without, all Christians are called to trust in Jesus’ promise, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Those who remain steadfast in their faith and confidence in the risen Lord need have no fear. Suffering, persecution, even death by martyrdom, though remaining impenetrable mysteries of evil, do not comprise an absurd dead end. No matter what adversity or sacrifice Christians may endure, they will in the end triumph over Satan and his forces because of their fidelity to Christ the victor. This is the enduring message of the book; it is a message of hope and consolation and challenge for all who dare to believe.”

Today, we, too, are called to believe in Jesus’ promise no matter what illness,
death or suffering is around us. As we wrap up this Liturgical Year, we are rooted in the faith of that message of hope if we also dare to believe.  As the priest said in his Sunday homily at Mass, whether you voted for the Red Team or the Blue Team last week, our love-in-action work endures to act with justice, love tenderly, and walk humbly with our God.

Words from Dorothy Day might come in handy at this time:
"One of the greatest evils of the day among those outside the proximity of the suffering poor is their sense of futility. Young people say, 'What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?' They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the action of the present moment but we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.

The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us? When we begin to take the lowest place, to wash the feet of others, to love our brothers with that burning love, that passion, which led to the cross, then we can truly say, ‘Now I have begun.'" 

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