He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me” (Lk 18:38-39)!
The difference between the blind man who shouted to Jesus and the people walking in front of Jesus was that the man knew he was blind. Those preventing access to Jesus were not aware of their spiritual blindness. Luke does not say why the people were preventing access to Jesus, just as Jesus in his parable of the Good Samaritan did not say why the priest or the Levite did not help the man dying on the road to Jericho.
Why would the people prevent the man from having access to Jesus, especially since he was asking for pity or mercy? One practical reason could be time. They were on the way to Jericho, their mind was set to get there, and stay on the schedule they would. Another could be that the man was a beggar. He was not seen to have dignity and worth, so they attempted to quiet him so he could go back to being invisible. The Jericho road was a dangerous road, maybe this was just a setup, a way to lure Jesus into an ambush.
Ultimately, we do not know why the people in today’s Gospel account prevented the man access to Jesus. The more important question is why do we prevent others from accessing Jesus? Is it that: we do not have the time, we consider them other, not worthy, we may not see their dignity and worth as human beings, and/or we are afraid because we buy into the myriad of mind noises that paralyze us from reaching out? And so we keep others at arm’s length. Could it simply be that we are just indifferent to the suffering of others?
Jesus would not be turned away. He stopped and had the blind man brought to him. He made the time, saw him as a fellow brother with dignity and worth, and healed him. Pope Francis said that “[Jesus] understands human sufferings, he has shown the face of God’s mercy, and he has bent down to heal body and soul. This is Jesus. This is his heart” (Francis 2014, opening page).
We are to have the same heart and response as well. We are to resist the temptations of indifference, fear, and pride that may well up inside of us and instead be willing to come close. Even if we do not understand the suffering of another, Jesus does. We just need to stop, to be present, to enter the chaos of another, and trust that Jesus will be present through us to provide his grace and mercy.
Jesus, please heal our blindness so that we may see more clearly the dignity and worth of each person that we encounter and when they look back at us may they see the face of God’s mercy.
Painting: Healing the Blind Man by Yongsu Kim
Pope Francis. The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2014.