It can be tempting to feel annoyed and irritated with immigrants, the poor, and those who need us, but that hostility makes us blind and deaf, unable to recognize the Lord in them.
This was a reflection offered by Pope Francis at today’s general audience, as he admitted that even he can feel a temptation to be annoyed with the needy.
The Holy Father’s address focused on the Gospel of Luke’s account of the healing of the blind man on the road to Jericho.
Jericho, in fact, was the city that represented the “entrance door to the Promised Land,” the Pope explained. It was there that Moses admonished “you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother …. For the poor will never cease out of the land” (Deuteronomy 15:7.11).
And, the Pope pointed out, it was on the road to this oasis city that the blind man found himself alone, sitting there “while busy people pass by, absorbed in their own thoughts and in many things.”
“The contrast between this recommendation of God’s Law and the situation described in the Gospel is striking,” Francis reflected: “While the blind man cried out, invoking Jesus, people rebuked him to silence him, as if he didn’t have the right to speak.”
The people were annoyed by his shouting, Francis observed, adding, “How often we are annoyed, when we see so many people on the road – needy, sick people who have nothing to eat. How often we are annoyed when we find ourselves before so many refugees. It’s a temptation we all have – I too! It’s because of this that the Word of God admonishes us, reminding us that indifference and hostility render us blind and deaf; they impede our seeing our brothers and do not allow us to recognize the Lord in them.”
Moreover, the Pontiff warned, “sometimes this indifference and hostility become also aggression and insult.”
He invites us closer
However, Jesus, on hearing the blind man’s shouting, “stopped, and commanded that he be brought to Him” (v. 40).
Thus, the Pope said, the man is taken from the side of the road and placed at the center of attention.
Jesus’ actions, he suggested, highlight two lessons:
First, the people of the crowd who had told the blind man that it was Jesus passing by (who had proclaimed the good news), yet didn’t want anything to do with this disabled beggar, are shown by Jesus that the good news implies putting the excluded at the center.
Secondly, the blind man, despite his lack of sight, has faith that opens the way of salvation, as he finds himself among those who had stopped on the road to see Jesus.
“Brothers and sisters,” the Pope said, “the Lord’s passing is an encounter of mercy that unites everything around Him to enable us to recognize one who is in need of help and of consolation.”
Jesus is passing by in our lives, too, the Pope continued. “and when Jesus passes, and I realize it, it is an invitation to draw near to Him, to be better, to be a better Christian, to follow Jesus.”
He came to serve
Next in the scene, we see that “the Son of God is now before the blind man as a humble servant.”
“He, Jesus, God, says: But what do you want me to do for you? How do you want me to serve you?’ God makes Himself a servant of the sinful man.”
The blind man answers in faith, “invoking Jesus and wanting absolutely to meet Him, and this brought him the gift of salvation,” Francis noted. “Thanks to his faith, he can now see and, above all, he feels that he is loved by Jesus” and he becomes his disciple.
“From a beggar to a disciple: this is also our path. We are all beggars, all of us. We are always in need of salvation. And all of us, should take this step every day: from beggars to disciples,” the Pope said.
The Bishop of Rome concluded the audience address by reflecting that in this account, we see a second miracle: “What happened to the blind man makes it so that the people also finally see. The same light illumines them all, uniting them in a prayer of praise. So Jesus pours out His mercy upon all those He meets: He calls them, brings them to come to Him, gathers them, heals and enlightens them, creating a new people that celebrates the wonders of His merciful love. Let us also allow ourselves to be called by Jesus, and let us be healed by Jesus, forgiven by Jesus, and let us go behind Jesus praising God. So be it!”
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