Sometimes the blind help us to see more clearly. In the case of today’s gospel reading, a blind man opens our eyes to the beauty of faith, even “blind” faith! He is physically unable to see, but through his faith in God he had 20/20 vision! As he is sitting along the side of the road, begging, as he had probably done for many days, possibly many years of his life, he hears a commotion. Most likely this was a very rare occurrence and for this reason, he is quick to ask those who are nearby about the commotion.
The people answered that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. That’s it. That’s all they said. But that was enough. It means that the fame of Jesus had spread in that area. People knew of Jesus by name. They had heard the stories and witnessed the miracles and this had spread to all the people even the beggars by the side of the road. Even now, it is very difficult to go anywhere in the world without someone knowing of Jesus by name.
Go to any college campus and most of the educated young minds will know the name of Jesus, but many won’t know much more than that. Of course not all people respond in the same way to the name of Jesus Christ. Some have created theories about Jesus: “He was a great teacher”, “He was a moral philosopher”, “He was a revolutionary and possibly a marxist”! Others claim that He was a myth, or that His true life story was corrupted by the Roman Catholic Church. But this type of thinking shows that many are almost blind, even when they can see. Sometimes this is called cognitive dissonance, the refusal to change our way of thinking despite all of the evidence to the contrary.
The reason why most people are blind and “in the dark” about Jesus is that they ultimately refuse the only historical documents that tell us in detail about His life and teachings. Those documents are the four holy gospels that have been handed down to us. They are the primary sources regarding Jesus of Nazareth. There is no other “historical Christ”. Without the gospels, we are left blind. But with the gospels, we have the basis to fill in the gaps and understand the story of God’s work in creation and His love for mankind.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the gospel book is kept on the Holy altar and wrapped in a special cover and it is made to look like a treasure. It is not the gold plating of the cover that makes it special, it is the words contained within. These are not just any words but the greatest words ever given to humanity because they are the words that bring us to the Word of God Himself. So one is compelled to accept them as a whole or to reject them as a whole. The Christ presented to us in the gospels is not a philosopher or a moral teacher. He is a man who claims to be the Son of God and equal to God His Father. A man that the disciples proclaimed as risen from the dead, even when it would cost them their very lives. So we have to take their word seriously. As St. Augustine wrote “If you believe what you like in the Gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”
Why am I mentioning all of this? Because before you can properly pray to Christ and ask Him to have mercy on you as the blind man did, you must have the faith of the blind man. And growing our faith involves more than wishful thinking or fate. It requires cultivation of our hearts and minds through humility as well as diligence. This is the same type of diligence and dedication that we might bring to any other endeavor such as athletic or academic or career pursuits. In fact, we should approach the reading of the gospels with more intensity and curiosity than we bring to almost anything else in our lives. Listen to this prayer that the priest prays silently, before the gospel is read during the divine liturgy:
“Illumine our hearts, O Master Who lovest mankind, with the pure light of Thy divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Thy gospel teachings. Implant also in us the fear of Thy blessed commandments, that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things as are well-pleasing unto Thee. For Thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father, Who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”
We are being told that the hearing of the gospel is not enough. Knowing about Jesus is not enough. The scribes and pharisees knew about Jesus but they did not know Him in truth. One has to hear and know in an enlightened way. One’s eyes have to be opened to a proper understanding of Christ, His identity, His teachings and His life. This happens when we cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit that is ever working to bring us to the light of truth. We search for Christ with our hearts and minds dedicated to and consumed by this holy endeavor. We are like gem miners digging deeper than anyone has ever gone in order to find the most precious diamonds in existence.
God opened the eyes of blind man’s mind and that man immediately recognized the Lord (although he was blind) and knew that his salvation was close at hand. We can see this in the way that he cried out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And this is one meaning of today’s reading: That we who have eyes and sight should have the faith of the blind man and cry out to Christ with a similar urgency. We cry out to Him with faith, because we don’t see Him, and yet we know that He is near. Let us approach the Master with the faith and spiritual vision, knowing that He is indeed able to have mercy on us, heal our infirmities and save our souls. Glory be to God forever AMEN.