|The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary
Most parents feel very sad when having to send their misbehaving-child to his or her room. They, themselves, perhaps remember their having been punished by some form of slight banishment from the family circle. My own father would, in his lawyer’s voice declare me exiled to my room and I thought, for eternity. My departure seemed harder on him so eternity lasted about ten minutes and he would appear at my door, asking me if I had read this very interesting story from Sports Illustrated. Even an upset dad experiences how love demands recovery.
Jeremiah, in today’s First Reading, relates the loving-parental side of God. Israel has been sent away into a second slavery. Jeremiah had warned God’s people often of the impending banishment and so it happened. Now, in this section of the two-chapters of “The Second Exodus,” there we find God seeking the separated-child and announcing the great joys awaiting them upon their return. There will be a great unity centering about the mountain of Zion and those normally excluded, the blind and lame, women with children and all others, will be once again the people loved by God.
A certain “blind man," the son of Timaeus, was sitting where society had put him, by the side of the road, out of the way. Upon hearing that Jesus was near, he shouted out the “Jesus Prayer.” Jesus called to him. The crowd, after telling the “blind man” to stop praying, then encouraged the “blind man” to hurry, for Jesus was calling him.
“What do you want Me to do for you?” The “blind man” simply asks that he might not be the “blind man” any more. Jesus gives him his recovery of sight and more importantly, his truer identity. The “blind man” was now included and was no longer crippled by an exclusive name, nor blind to how Jesus saw him.
God gave Israel its name and identity, but Israel had a history of choosing other gods and other names for itself. The history of God’s love for Israel and all humankind, is a history of recovery of sight. God has a history with us of showing us, helping us to see who we are and how we are to call ourselves. Son of Timaeus was his name, but the “blind man” was how he had learned to be called. Others called him that too.
It is incorrect, but so easily done, to call or identify ourselves interiorly by some adjective and usually a debilitating one. Timaeus was first of all, a man, and only in the sight of others was he blind. To be blind for him was a negative feature by which he could then know himself, and others know him, until Jesus gave him back his true self, his true sight. This is the work of redemption, recovery, reforming, reidentifying and re-sighting which Jesus continues as He walks along our roads.
We can define ourselves outside His embrace. We can banish ourselves to the exclusion-room by naming ourselves by some feature or accident. We may have lost an arm and so we become “a one-armed man.” It is so sacrilegious to define ourselves or anybody else by a difference or defect. Jesus gives us a vision, a recovery of sight to call us closer to His view of us. Jeremiah called the people of Israel back from false gods and false views of themselves and their true God. Jesus called the man who was blind to walk the road of his life with the vision of himself as loved and healed by Jesus.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but false names will always hurt me." The lame, by dropping their support-sticks, the blind, by setting aside their guide-sticks, and all others of the human family are to put away self-banishing, self-defacing images and recover their sight and true names. This is redemption, not from the eternal banishment from God, but the return in our living-days, to rejoice and shout and praise as did the “people-recalled-by-God” and as did Bartimaeus who followed Jesus along the road.
In my misbehaving-youth, I would soon smile after slamming my bedroom door, because I knew the “Big-Fellow” would soon come knocking, because he loved me and couldn’t stand his having sent me away. He wanted me to see better how much more he loved me than was mad at me. Jesus, Son of David, keep knocking at our doors of self-exclusion. Lord, that we may see better how much You love us and what Your name is for us.
“Let hearts rejoice who search for the Lord. Seek the Lord and his strength, seek always the face of the Lord.”
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