Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ is making His way to the place that kills the Prophets and stones them (Mt. 23:37; Lk. 13:34). He is passing through Jericho on His way to Jerusalem and to the Cross, just as He has told His Disciples a few verses back. However, as the Evangelist tells us, “they understood none of these things” (Lk. 18:31-24).
And yet, the blind beggar from Jericho understood. Though blind, he saw far more clearly than Jesus’ obtuse Disciples. He saw far more clearly than those of the multitude passing him by. He asked what all the commotion was about and the crowd told him that “Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.” He, in turn, cried out from the wayside, “’Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!’”
“’Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” The blind beggar saw what the multitude did not – could not – see. They saw a prophet, a rabbi, from Nazareth in Galilee, perhaps even a gentle minstrel of some sort. He saw the royal lineage of King David enfleshed in Jesus of Nazareth. He saw what Pilate eventually will get right and insists on: “This is [Jesus] the King of the Jews” (Mt. 27:37; Mk. 15:26; Lk. 23:38; Jn. 19:19)! The blind man from Jericho, old “blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus,” as we know him from St. Mark (Mk. 10:46), sees and knows by faith that this Jesus passing him by is, in fact, the long-awaited Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world, even as the angel foretold the Theotokos,
‘He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His Kingdom there will be no end’ (2 Kg. [2 Sm.] 7:12-17; Lk. 1:32-33; Rm. 1:3)!
Seeing, that is, enlightened by divine Truth, the blind beggar confesses his faith and his hope and makes his plea, “’Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!’”
And, of course, as is the case so often with those of worldly mind and spirit, the crowd seeks to silence his pleas. “[T]hose who went before rebuked him [rather strong language, to say the least, almost as though he was a troublesome soul to them], that he should hold his peace, . . . .” We could surmise any number of reasons why they sought to shut him up, but the fact remains: he refused to heed the voice of the worldly spirit and mind. How often do we read of how the world strives mightily to silence the voices of our confessors of the Faith and our martyrs? Consider especially the new martyrs and confessors of Russia under the Communist yoke whom we commemorate today how they refused to be silenced, refused to be frightened with the threats of torture and death, and would not yield their Faith nor hold their tongues singing the glory of Jesus Christ! They chose rather, as have all like them down through the ages from place to place, to entrust themselves into the providential hands of Almighty God and to trust the words of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, “’And you will be hated by all for My Name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls’” (Lk. 21:8-19). Like all who are believers in Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of God, who are His children, His brethren, His disciples, they dare to have faith in God above all else. “What then shall we say to these things?,” asks St. Paul.
If God is for us, who can be against us? . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword [or COVID or…….]? . . . Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us (Rm. 8:28-39).
Do you hear that? Do you believe in Jesus Christ NIKA, Jesus Christ the Conqueror, as the priest declares at the breaking apart of the consecrated Lamb? Or, does the blind beggar from Jericho outshine us all seeing by faith far more boldly than we allow ourselves to see or maybe want to see? Have we allowed the unrelenting fears of this world and its hatred of Jesus, which is becoming all too apparent, to blunt our faith or, more tragically, deprive us of faith which deprives us of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of David, the Son of the true and living God? “’Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!,’” “he cried out all the more.” We can learn from this catechumen in the Faith and from all those new confessors and martyrs of the Church!
The blind beggar before us leads us to faith and faith acts with perseverance, even as our Lord showed us at the beginning of this chapter in St. Luke’s Holy Gospel. Jesus speaks an enlightening parable to us “that men ought always to pray and not to faint” (Lk. 18:1-8). He speaks of a widow we have come to endear as “the importunate widow” and of an unjust judge “’who feared not God, neither regarded man.’” From this unjust judge she persisted to seek justice for herself from her adversary. Day and night, she stormed the magistrate’s court with her prayers until, finally, Jesus says, he surrenders “’lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” And, then, our Lord concludes with the assurance that if an unjust, godless magistrate will so answer the prayers of a pesky old widow, how much more will God, Who is good and is the Lover mankind, Who is Himself the just Judge, not speedily come to the aid of His baptized? Of course, Jesus tells us this because He knows what is before us, what awaits us, what the future holds for us all in the face of our arch adversary, the devil. He prowls around seeking some poor soul to devour, Sacred Scripture tells us (1 Pe. 5:8). “Be sober, be vigilant,” the Apostle says in light of this, and “resist [the evil one], steadfast in the Faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Pe. 5:9). “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, . . . For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this,” declares the Apostle and Theologian, “is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world,” St. John asks, “but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 Jn. 5:1, 4-5). “’Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!’”
But, at the end of the parable of the importunate widow, Jesus asks a chilling question. It’s chilling because the grammatical structure of the Greek implies a negative answer. Jesus asks, “’Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?’” Shall Jesus find faith on the earth – and in us – when He returns in all of His glory? This is the question always before us. When Jesus comes to us, when He passes by us beggars on the side of the road, will He find faith in us, let alone the world? Will we see by faith what the blind beggar, who is our brother, has seen and continues to see? Or, will we be like that multitude? No, will we be in the very midst of that multitude who does not see nor can see Who Jesus Christ truly is – the Saviour of the world, the Light Who enlightens every man coming into the world (Jn. 1:9), the Healer of our sin-inflicted ancient wounds, the Redeemer of our souls, the Restorer of the sin-distorted image of God in us, the Bestower of the likeness of God? Will we be caught up in the mob or will we have faith in Jesus and cry out with unrelenting cries, “’Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!’”?
“’Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’” This is St. Luke’s way of saying what St. Matthew records Jesus as prophesying regarding the looming end. “’And because lawlessness will abound,’” says our Lord, “’the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved’” (Mt. 24:12-13). A few verses later in St. Matthew, Jesus also says, “’And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened’” (Mt. 24:22). It is because the Church in the tenacity of faith refuses to be silenced in prayer, but lays siege to the mercy-seat of God, that the world is enlightened with Jesus Christ and the days of tribulation will be shortened. Let us, beloved, “pray without ceasing” (1 Th. 5:17) like the widow, and with the priestly blind beggar let us cry out for ourselves, for one another, and for the world and its departed, “’Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on [us]!’” And He Who enlightens this dark world will enlighten our blindness with “the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him’” (Jn. 1:18). Faith sees, beloved, and faith knows. Faith prays without ceasing, ‘’Jesus, Thou Son of God, have mercy on me!’” And He will give us our eyes.
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!