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 they attempted to prevent the man access. The more important question is how often do we prevent others from accessing Jesus for similar reasons? We do not have the time, they are other, we may not see their dignity and worth as human beings, and/or we are afraid of difference so we keep others at arm’s length. Could it be we are just indifferent to the suffering of others?
Jesus responded differently to the call of the beggar in today’s Gospel account. 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 he took the risk to reach out to someone in need, and healed him. As Pope Francis has said, “[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).
This is to be our response as well. Even if we do not understand the suffering of another, Jesus does. We are invited to stop, to be present, to enter the chaos of another, and trust that Jesus will be present through us to provide mercy. Are we willing to resist indifference and fear and instead see each person we encounter, not as other, but as a fellow human being? We do this best by making the time and being present. Are we willing to ask Jesus to heal our blindness that we may be willing to see the dignity and worth of each person that we meet so that those we encounter see in us the face of God’s mercy?