Christmas is no where in sight but can be seen everywhere. Next to the pumpkins and ghosts in the stores, are Christmas trees, snowmen, and candy cane decor. Some people shop for others all year to get the “perfect” gift. It’s been interesting to see how, as our kids have grown, giving a really good gift has become much more important to them than receiving one. I too want give my children them something they really want. I feel saddened by the consumerism shift in Christmas from even as little as 50 years ago, but I am beginning to better understand the theology behind a both giving and receiving gift. It begins with the good desires of our heart which are God-given, and He wants His children to delight in those gifts. Conversely, we too “grow up” as human beings and desire not to receive things, but to be good to others in our lives, and ultimately that can nourish our desire to know and serve the Lord more fully. But like the blind man in this upcoming Sunday’s gospel, He wants us to ask specifically for those things.
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way.
Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.
The blind man calls out by faith. He sits on the side of the road, frozen in fear without knowing pitfalls such as tree stumps, thorny bushes, or rocks. He has lived a life frozen in fear, yet he senses the Messiah. Calling Jesus by name, and then adding “Son of David” (which he calls out twice in this gospel) is the blind man’s act of faith
. Somehow, he that cannot see to walk, sees mystically Jesus as the descendant of David, the great King, and as the Son of God, promised from of old. He uses the title “Son of David” to declare the fulfillment of the Messianic promise before the “sizable” crowd.
What do you want me to do for you?
Christ wants the blind man to ask for the desires of his heart. Of course God knows our desires already, but He wants us to show our faith in Him by asking.
Adorning a small child’s Christmas wish list may be a star, the moon, an elephant, a spaceship…the unobtainable gift request shows a belief in the generosity and capability of the parent. When our kids were little we would make note of things they liked in the store in order to get them something they really wanted for Christmas. They knew exactly what they wanted: which set of Legos, which kind of Matchbox car, or which color of Princess dress. Unlike God, I didn’t always know exactly what they wanted, but even when I did, hearing the desires of their hearts as they look trustingly to me is an honor as a parent. With the pure heart of a child, I too should ask my Loving Father for what I need specifically, even in intercession for someone else’s situation. God loves when we trust in Him and wants us to ask Him boldly for what we need, and to ask for it by name. (Matthew chapter 7:8-10).
Go your way, your faith has saved you.
Jesus responds, “your faith has saved you”, instead of “I have saved you”. Why? Because our participation in our own salvation is NECESSARY. We ignite the light of God’s power when we hand over our trust. We allow Him breadth of power and make room for His grace when we surrender. He is not a dictator, despite His ominous power. He is LOVE. Love doesn’t force a reciprocity. Our relationship with Our Heavenly Father requires our participation.
…and followed him on the way.
If you had been blind all of your life and your vision was suddenly yours, what would you do? I imagine, I might run home, look into the faces of those I had loved all my life and never seen; peered endlessly for days at the glories of nature–the way a breeze seems to control the location and timing of the sun’s gleaming pockets on the water; the way a bird flies; a swaying tree in the wind–all of the earthly beauty that I had never witnessed; only perhaps heard or felt. But not this man. This formerly blind man does something amazing. He picks right up and follows Jesus. Whatever earthly enticements this blind man had missed out on for his entire life are nothing compared to the mystical pull of the power of God in Christ. As I meditate on this passage, I imagine the blind man, weak and beaten down from spending a fear-filled life of immobility due to environmental unknowns and ignorance from others waiting helplessly for miracle. Many years without hope, he is inspired by this Son of David who is passing by with a large crowd who are insatiable for what he has to offer. He must yell loudly over the “sizable” crowd, although his strength to yell left him long ago. His limbs are weak from lack of use; his spirit immobilized with fear, but yet he has a spiritual light; this is it…this the moment. He is the one! After the healing of his vision, he immediately picks up and follows Christ. He doesn’t return to his family, sit on a mountain marveling at nature, or go take a peace-filled nap. He follows Christ because he knows that the miracle of his vision is only the beginning. The rest of his body–and especially his soul–now having tasted what is good and true, follow for more. Heal me, Lord. Heal me completely, body, mind and soul.
Theological Virtue: Hope
Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. (CCC 1817)Cardinal Virtue: Fortitude
Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good.
Human Virtue: Courage; this man had to summon his strength and hope that he could be healed. He was healed by his faith, but if he hadn’t summoned his strength to call Jesus in the crowd, he could have been passed over or given up.
How I will act: I will go out of my way in the coming week to attend something with others in faith that I wouldn’t normally attend (a certain mass, healing service, prayer group, etc.)
How I will pray
: I will make an act of faith with the Angelus
every day, (traditionally we pray this prayer at 9am, noon and 6pm) asking God to increase my faith and trust in Him. I will make my prayer petitions more specific when I pray.