Mark 10:46-52New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher,[a] let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
I can’t help but think of Pope Francis visit. Much like the Jesus story, there’s huge crowds of people. There are those holding people back from the Pope. You know, for his protection. But more than once the world watched as Francis stopped his caravan to kiss or otherwise bless people with challenges and disabilities. I may not be Catholic, or even agree with Catholicism in many ways, but that is a special kind of testimony Pope Francis was doing.
But in our story, Jesus isn’t just blessing those for whom he stops his caravan. In the story, he heals a blind man and grants him sight. Whether you believe in the possibility of a miracle or not, this particular story is rich in metaphor and lessons. In fact, it turns out Bartimeus isn’t the only one who gets his blindness cured…in a way the crowd does too. They now see, hopefully, that the bigger blindness is their own blindness to the need around them.
What does it mean to be granted sight? What responsibility comes with seeing, with knowing, with becoming aware of the kingdom of God somehow among us and somehow unseen, aware of poverty and of the great need also among us and also largely unseen or at least ignored…But then you see it. Now what?
Once you know the end of the story, it seems so obvious what was to be done. But in the moment. When you are blind and crying out on a hope, on a whim. Or when you’re holding back or fending off one more groupie. It’s not obvious then. When you are groping in the dark, there is no confidence that you’ll ever find the light. There’s really no confidence that it even exists. Sometimes we don’t even acknowledge we need a light at all. But if we can find the courage, despite that, to ask that our eyes be opened, to try and see, to look for what this world holds that is just beyond the periphery…what might we see then? What might it hold?
The thing about the peripheral is that you always have one. Even if you turn to look there is still a peripheral…there is always a just beyond our sight. That’s how we can all continue to see more, continue to turn our heads, open our eyes and perceive more of this world and its various realms, dimensions, levels, possibilities. Do you want to see?
Have you ever noticed that once your eyes are opened to something, it is easy to become hyper critical of those who haven’t jumped on board? I’ll give you an example. A friend of mine quit smoking a few years ago. And now, he is quick to exclaim, “How could anyone do that? It’s so disgusting! Don’t they know what they are doing to their body?” How quickly we forget. How quickly we are to exclude once our eyes have been opened and we have acclimated to our new truth, our new reality, our new understanding, our new normal. And so blindness remains yet.
I don’t usually write much poetry…but this just sort of came out…
How can I be so blind?
How can I be blind to the hunger, abuse, pain I see everyday?
How can I be so blind to all the need that exists?
How can I be so blind when its right in front of me everyday?
How dare I hide behind the gospel’s proclamation that the world is in His hands.
How dare I pretend that doesn’t mean I have a role to play.
How dare I think my indignance will have any effect on injustice.
How then shall I help?
How then do I join the fight?
How then do I live the gospel instead of just proclaim it?
The darkest blindness no longer appears to be in those without sight, but in my own heart. Jesus, God, Holy Spirit in your mercy, open my eyes and let me see.
How do we respond to calls of need as a culture? Think about what they do when the olympics are coming to town for example. The send bus loads of homeless and indigent people out of town. Just get them out of sight and out of mind. Pretend they don’t exist. Pretend our problems don’t exist.
“Miracles are that which turn us from darkness to light.” That which opens our eyes. I believe you can do miracles. I sure as heck believe that Jesus did..dare I say does? Always opening eyes, minds and hearts…turning us from darkness to light.
Today Clint is going to help us open our eyes. He will teach us something about becoming aware of the world around us. We will slow down today and notice. My hope, my prayer, is that we can hold on to what we learn today, and see the whole world a little more…notice a little more..and then, that we might act.