Homily 392 – 31st after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
January 19, 2020
Epistle: (280-ctr) 1 Timothy 1:15-17
Gospel: (93) Luke 18:35-43
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
What do we want Jesus to do?
It is a fascinating question. On the face, it seems rather direct and easily answered. Because we know who Jesus is and what Jesus is capable of.
This blind man knew. He calls out “Son of David”, which is to say, “Messiah.” Society didn’t know – for them, Jesus was an itinerant preacher, perhaps a prophet. In our day Jesus might be – and in many cases is – known as a “spiritual leader” or “guru”.
But I imagine that given the choice of meeting Jesus and having him meet our needs or meeting, say, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos and having him meet our needs – society would likely choose the wealthy and powerful. The self-indulgent.
Not the person who advocates self-denial and detachment.
So – what do we want Jesus to do?
If we are to answer for ourselves, we might be influenced by whatever is on our mind at the moment.
We want relief from our work, our toil. We want a better relationship with family or friends. We want a car that works or a snowblower. We want our mortgage paid off, or a home of our own.
We think about wants in terms of immediate perceived need. Some, like the blind beggar we hear about today, have a long term need.
It is interesting that the blind man didn’t ask for alms or any of his material needs. He didn’t ask for wealth or possessions. He asked for healing.
How natural to want to be whole! But there are implications. If he regained his sight, his world would change. Dramatically.
He would no longer beg. He would make his own living. He would be required to participate in the life of the community, adhering to the religious law.
The request for sight was asking for a return to normalcy, and that involved responsibility.
One thing we know from reading the scriptures and the fathers is that physical blindness is nearly always a proxy for spiritual blindness. We don’t see reality, we see this world – only the physical part of it.
Like the great old protestant hymn says: I was blind, but now I see.
That, too, comes with responsibilities. As a result of our spiritual enlightenment, we can now see – and we then become responsible to live according to the norms of the community, and not our own norms.
By community, we include the members throughout time – the prophets, the patriarchs and matriarchs, the fathers and mothers of the early church, the faithful Christians throughout time.
We don’t just conform to the physical members of the community around us.
We strive for oneness with everyone, throughout time – oneness in Christ Jesus. If we are one with Christ, we are one with one another also. Oneness with St. Paul, oneness with St. Macarius, oneness with this very blind man.
With that striving, with that healing, comes another important commandment. We are asked to follow Christ.
We are asked to detach from the world but still exist within it. We are asked to live carefree. Literally, care. Free. Without a care.
That’s what I struggle with daily. When we come to the part of the liturgy that we sing, “Now lay aside all earthly care” do we really do so? I struggle with it if I’m honest.
The value we place on our lives is vastly different in Christ. We no longer value wealth, or comfort, or ease. We value relationships. We value the needs of others.
We deny ourselves – as we will do again soon as we approach Great Lent. We deny ourselves not as the end – not as the goal.
We deny ourselves also that we might give. So that we are empowered to meet the needs of others. And that others might meet our needs as well.
I focus on material needs – but social needs are included here also. The need to be respected. The desire for status. The desire for importance. These are also aspects of worldly living that we have to abandon.
It sounds harsh, but it truly isn’t. It is liberating! It enables us to be true to ourselves – our true nature – as God created us to be. Not our self-determined true self, but our real true self.
That place in creation where only we can fill.
Imagine truly not caring what others think about us, but living in complete love for others. Accepting ridicule and derision, even experiencing joy when we are put down or laughed at.
Truly, from society’s point of view, it is foolish. Folly.
The Church’s point of view? Sainthood. A fool for Christ.
So what do we want from Christ? Do we want to heal? Do we want to be restored?
That, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is what our Lord is asking us.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!