Do not pass me by

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A certain blind man sat by the wayside, begging.  – St. Luke 18

 The Blind Man

Sometimes, stories about the miracles of Christ don’t move me much. It’s wonderful that the Lord had the power to do things like heal the blind. The question is what does this matter to me? After all, I’ve been illuminated by baptism. I’ve studied the scriptures and the writings of the saints for many years. I’m an ordained archpriest. Surely, I can’t be counted as being one of those who are still blind? (A little voice tells me to remember that Jesus called the pharisees “blind guides”)

I ran across this statement: “But none easily sees Jesus, none standing upon the earth can see Jesus.” (St. Ambrose of Milan) Well, if Jesus is the light of the world, and I cannot see that light, then I must be blind. St. Gregory agrees: “Anyone ignorant of the brightness of the divine light is blind.” If this is true, then the words of Jesus have been realized. I am blind priest trying to lead a congregation: the blind is leading the blind.

What hope is there for me? If I am blind, I must be lost. There is hope. Scripture says that the blind man was sitting by the wayside. Since Christ called himself  “the Way,” there is something good about sitting by the wayside. “If he believes and knows the blindness of his heart, if he begs to receive the light of truth, he is sitting at the wayside begging. If anyone recognizes the darkness of his blindness, if anyone understands that the light of truth is wanting in him, let him cry out from the bottom of his heart.” (St. Gregory)

So, all is not lost. Though I am blind, if I know my blindness, then I have at least come to sit beside the way, and that is a good thing. The thing is that I can get quite comfortable with my blindness as I sit by the way. Since I cannot see the brightness of the Lord as he passes by, the depth of my own blindness does not disturb me. How can I measure the darkness if I don’t have light?  It’s like the old saying: “How do you know what you missed, if you missed it?” There is a way to measure it. You have to meet the crowd.

The Crowd

The blind man cried out, but the crowd around him told him to shut-up. Don’t you know this crowd? When we come to pray, this is our time to cry out to God. At that very moment, the crowd appears yelling that we should shut-up.  There’s boredom that tells me prayer is repetition. I should hurry or stop because there’s an interesting  TV program that I shouldn’t miss. There’s laziness that tells me I should cut things short because I need my rest. There’s my bodily needs that suddenly seem so important. My stomach cries out for a snack or my feet that ache and tell me I should stop and get off of them.  There’s fantasy that puts up image after image into my mind, seeking to join me to distraction. There’s remembrance that calls up past sins or pleasures so that I lose heart and stop praying. A big member of the crowd is fear.  Fear has too many faces to discuss here. There are others, of course, because it can be a rather large and noisy bunch.

I think I’m such a wise man, so enlightened and aware, but like Zacchaeus, I am so short of stature. Since the crowd of my passions sways me, I give up on prayer easily and readily. It’s just easier to just go with the crowd and let Jesus pass by. The crowd didn’t stop Zacchaeus, who wanted to see Jesus so much that he climbed a tree. It didn’t stop the blind man, either. The louder the crowd protested, the louder he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

Gaining Sight

We know that prayer can do a lot of things. St. Gregory points out something that had never occurred to me before.  The Scriptures says that Jesus was on the road to Jericho when he heard the blind man cry out. Above all things, prayer makes the Lord stop. “ But when we persist ardently in our prayer, we fix Jesus to our hearts as he passes by… He revives the light, because God is fixed to our hearts, and the light we have lost is restored.”  (St. Gregory)

No wonder the crowd wants me to stop praying, for when Jesus stops, the crowds disperse. In fact, it is a clear sign: when the crowd begins to shout, the Lord is near. The louder they shout, the nearer He is to me. When he stops, Jesus will ask me, “What do you want?” It’s a daunting question, and I am not sure that I am ready to answer. I have so many “needs” (I use quotes here because most of my so-called needs are always nothing but wants). I hope that when the Lord stops and asks me, I will only answer, “I want to see.” Solomon heard the same question and he asked for nothing but wisdom.

I had better be ready for the consequences. When the blind man received his sight, he followed Jesus. When I am given my sight, I too will be asked to follow Him. Am I ready for what that will cost me? I don’t think so, because so far, I give in easily to the crowd. I let Jesus pass by and I say little. I remain a blind man sitting by the wayside.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord, do not pass me by!

(My thanks to St. Gregory, a man who could see the Light. The quotes came from Forty Gospel Homilies, Gregory the Great, Homily 13.)

One Response to “Do not pass me by”

  1. Church Warden Says:

    Thanks, Fr. John! We selected this as the homily for our reader to deliver this morning (Luke’s 14th Gospel, Sunday before Zacchaeus) at Typica in our mission station at Edenton, N.C.; and your wisdom received high compliments. Thanks for writing and posting it for us!

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