Power, control, and mercy.

Homily 343 – 34th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
January 20, 2019
Epistle: (257) – Colossians 3:4-11 and (335) – Hebrews 13:17-21 (Ven Euthymius)
Gospel: (93) – Luke 18:35-43 and (24) – Luke 6:17-23 (Ven Euthymius)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

What does it take to ask for Mercy?

The blind man, whom we know as Bartimaeus from the account of St. Mark’s Gospel, asks our Lord to have mercy on him. We do that, frequently. In fact, all of our prayer is a cry to our Lord for mercy.

Yet, there seem to be prerequisites to asking for mercy. Foremost, is that the person has power over you. One cannot grant mercy if they do not have power.

The person has control – a form of power, made manifest and real. Perhaps control even to the point of being a threat.

We might think of mercy as something said to a bully, in self-preservation mode.

So while we recognize the position of the other, maybe more important that the position of the other, is our own.

In the face of power and control and even threat, a response to call for mercy is perhaps a last resort.

And in what we see and hear in the Gospels, Christ was no threat to anyone. And yet everyone – the blind man today especially – calls out for mercy.

The people recognize the power of God. They recognize the control of God.

But they also recognize their own inadequacy. They cannot heal themselves. They cannot care for themselves, become whole on their own.

They recognize that no one else can heal them either. They have hope – the coming Messiah.

When the blind man asks what is causing the commotion, he is told “Jesus of Nazareth”. And yet he calls him “Son of David” which is saying “Messiah”.

He recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah. And in Jesus is one who not only can, but will heal.

The blind man was humble enough to admit that he couldn’t obtain what he desired by his own strength. And to call out after Jesus.

Not only did Bartimaeus recognize in Jesus the Messiah, but he was persistent, continuing to call out.

Making an audacious claim in the process. Perhaps the reputation of Jesus had preceded him into Jericho.

Jericho was a place of humility. In the Old Testament, the Israelites marched around the walls, blowing trumpets, in obedience to God. Not an ordinary siege, to say the least. I’m sure the Israelites, led by Joshua, may have felt a bit foolish.

They didn’t proclaim their own strength – but God showed His strength. God revealed His love and power and control.

On the northwest outskirts there is a mountain, called the mount of Temptation, also called “of the Forty Days” where it is said Christ spent the forty days of his temptation fast.

Jericho was also the place where Zacchaeus climbed up the tree to see our Lord.

All of these acts – acts of humility, acts of obedience – were met with mercy from God.

Similarly, the blind man humbled himself, and called out for what was necessary. He didn’t attempt to hide his weakness. He didn’t place blame.

He asked for mercy. And he received it.

Then, the account tells us he continued to follow Christ – and glorified God over his healing.

Are we able to ask for mercy?

Are we too proud to ask for mercy? Are we so proud that recognizing our weakness in the face of the utter power and strength of God is beyond us?

Do we also recognize, believe, and proclaim, that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah?

That is the evidence of faith. No self-sufficiency here. Total dependence. No threat – just desire for healing, and the trust that the one we ask is able to heal, and able to provide mercy.

Like Bartimaeus, we cannot see Christ – we can only hear of Him. We experience Him in the Eucharist, of course, but that is still an unseen manifestation of God.

Are we also persistent in our calls for mercy? Persistence is also evidence of faith.

Are we humble enough to be ridiculed? Will we persevere even when people around us try to shut us down?

If we endure – if we have faith – if we are humble – God will indeed honor his promise and heal us by joining us to Him.

Because there is no imperfection in God.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.