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October 28, 2018
[St. Ann Church, Kaneohe (Diocesan Youth Day); St. Philomena Church, Kalaupapa]
Sometimes the blind can see best. Here is the story of a great crowd following Jesus. But they seem to be following him because of his celebrity. They wanted to see him perform some miracle, as if the circus had come into town and the amazing magician might put on a virtuoso performance right before their eyes. But there was one person in Jericho who actually saw Jesus for what he was: the Son of David, which is to say, the Messiah, the long-awaited one who would fulfill God’s promise to David that one of his descendants would sit upon his throne forever. It was only the blind man who saw this, though he could not see Jesus. So Jesus did not disappoint the crowd, but actually restored the sight of the blind man. He did this not to impress or entertain, but to make a new disciple who would follow him along the way. In fact, as we read in the very next passage after today’s gospel, the way led to Jerusalem, where Jesus would suffer rejection, cruel torture, death – and where he would rise from the dead. Once the blind man’s eyes were opened, the first thing he saw was Jesus, and seeing him, he understood that his only joy would be in following him, no matter where he might lead.
We come here to the Eucharist every Sunday. But sometimes we come like the crowd to be entertained. We expect good music, a good homily, friendly people, and a welcoming spirit. And all of these are good and important, but then we have to ask, if these things are not what we expect them to be, do we simply go our own way and look for something else that will stimulate us more? In a sense, we all come here blind, because we fail to see that this gathering is about one thing only: encountering Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of God. Like the blind man, we do not see him, but we put our faith and call out our desire to see. And when we have the desire and are willing to throw off our cloaks of routine expectations, Jesus will open our eyes to see that the Scriptures proclaimed here are not just inspiring readings, but they are his own voice, the one who is the Word that wants to always take flesh in us. We will see that the bread and wine we take to the altar do not remain mere bread and wine, but they become the Body and Blood of the very Jesus who walked along the road passing through Jericho, and who now walks with us in our own lives. How often we are blind to this reality, but the man in today’s gospel gives us hope to know that it is so and that our eyes can actually be open to see Jesus himself.
But once we see Jesus, he has no interest in being a celebrity with whom we can spend a little time. He opens our eyes to see other things we may not have seen before, so that he can transform us -- and through us all the world. He wants us to see first that he loves us, and that he loves everyone else. When we are depressed or threatened, when we are overwhelmed by pressures to perform, or when some terrible thing happens to us, like the ending of a valued relationship, we might think there is no way out. We might close our eyes to the love that would give us hope and that would heal our hearts. It is then that we most need to ask Jesus to open our eyes that we might see. When another person is getting on our nerves or is bullying us or someone else, it is easy to be blind to the fact that God loves that person, too. And most likely the person is acting destructively because he or she cannot see God’s love either. It is then that Jesus calls us to throw off the cloak of fear and to approach the most unlovable with his love, so that the person’s eyes can be opened to reality.
When we are finally able to see Jesus or even to recognize who he really is even when our eyes are blinded, we can then see other things that Jesus wants us to see. We can see that Jesus calls us to higher standards in living the beautiful gift of sexuality he has bestowed upon us, opening our eyes to the beauty of God’s plan that our sexual expression be limited to a permanent, committed, and fruitful relationship we call marriage. The rest of the world, which is always longing for more entertainment and stimulation of the senses, thinks that young people are simply not capable of the kind of virtue and discipline it takes to live our lives as sexual beings in the way God know it is best for us to live. And so it says to be careful, to protect yourself against possible unwanted consequences. Yet seeing and following the way Jesus sets out may be much more difficult, but it will bring, in the end, much greater joy.
When Jesus opens our eyes to see him, he will also challenge us to see the poor and to ask what we can do to eliminate their poverty and help them live in dignity. He will open our eyes to see those who suffer unjustly – the unborn, the bullied, those are the victims of unjust discrimination because of their race or some other characteristic. And once our eyes are open, we will be able to follow him along the way and to work against these injustices – even when it means that we have to be rejected, criticized, or even persecuted or put to death. It is when we can see as Jesus sees that we will be able to shout for joy, to exult and to celebrate with every fiber of our being the love God has shown us in Jesus Christ our Lord.