God annoys people

POPE FRANCIS

GENERAL AUDIENCE

Wednesday June 15, 2016

[Multimedia]


 

Dear brothers and sisters,
good day!

One day when Jesus came near the city of Jericho, he performed the miracle of restoring sight to a blind man who was begging on the street (cf. Lk 18.35-43). Today we want to grasp the meaning of this sign, because it also affects us directly. The evangelist Luke says that the blind man was sitting in the street and begging (cf. v. 35). Back then - but also until not so long ago - a blind man could not live on anything other than alms. The figure of this blind man represents many people who are now marginalized due to a disadvantage of a physical or other nature. He sits there away from the crowd, while the people pass by, absorbed in their own thoughts and in many things ... And the street, which can be a meeting place, is for him a place of solitude. Lots of people pass by ... And he's alone

The image of someone marginalized is sad, especially against the backdrop of the city of Jericho, the magnificent and blooming oasis in the desert. We know that at the end of the long exodus from Egypt the people of Israel arrive in Jericho: that city is the gateway to the Promised Land. Let us remember the words that Moses spoke on that occasion: “If there is a poor person living with you, any of your brothers in any of your urban areas in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, then you should not be hard-hearted and you shall not close your hand to your poor brother.

[...] The poor will never completely disappear from your country. That is why I make it your duty: You should open your hand to your needy and poor brother who lives in your country "(German 15.7.11). There is a stark contradiction between this instruction of the divine law and the situation described in the Gospel: While the blind man calls out to Jesus, people scold him in order to silence him, as if he had no right to speak. They do not feel sorry for him, but on the contrary feel annoyed by his screaming. How often do we feel harassed when we see many people on the street - needy, sick people who have nothing to eat. How often do we feel harassed when we face many refugees and asylum seekers. It is a temptation that we all face. Everyone, including me! Hence the Word of God admonishes us, reminding us that indifference and animosity make blind and deaf, prevent us from seeing our brothers and not allow us to see the Lord in them. Indifference and hostility. And sometimes this indifference and hostility also turn into aggression and insult: "Chase them all away!" "Put them up somewhere else!" The people behaved just as aggressively towards the screaming blind man: "Get out of here, don't talk, don't scream!" «

We notice an interesting detail. The evangelist says that one of the crowd explained to the blind man the reason for the crowd and said: "Jesus of Nazareth is passing" (v. 37). The passing of Jesus is indicated with the same verb that im Book of Exodus there is talk of the passing of the annihilator through whom the Israelites in Egypt are saved (cf. Ex 12.23). It is the "passing" of the Passover, the beginning of liberation: when Jesus passes, there is always liberation, there is always salvation! So it is as if his Passover is being announced to the blind man! Without being intimidated, the blind man cries out to Jesus several times and recognizes him as the son of David, the expected Messiah, who is the Prophet Isaiah would open the eyes of the blind (cf. Isa 35.5). In contrast to the crowd, this blind man sees with the eyes of faith.

Hence his request has a powerful effect. For "Jesus stopped and let him be brought to him" (v. 40) when he heard him. In doing so, Jesus is taking the blind man off the roadside and placing him in the center of the attention of his disciples and the crowd. Let us also think of how Jesus, when we were in dire situations, including situations of sin, took us by the hand and led us away from the roadside and gave us salvation. So there is a double passing. First, the people had given the blind man some good news but wanted nothing to do with him. Jesus now forces everyone to become aware that it is part of the good news to put those who were excluded from it at the center of their own path. Second, the blind man, for his part, could not see, but his faith opens the way to salvation and he finds himself in the midst of those who have gone into the streets to see Jesus. Brothers and sisters, the Lord's passing is an encounter of mercy that gathers all around Christ to see who needs help and comfort. Jesus also passes in our lives. And when Jesus passes by and I notice it, it is an invitation to approach him, to be better, to be a better Christian, to follow Christ. Jesus turns to the blind man and asks him: "What should I do to you?" (V. 41). These words of Jesus are impressive: the Son of God now stands before the blind man like a humble servant.

He, Jesus, God says, “What should I do to you? How should I serve you? ”God makes himself the servant of sinful man. And the blind man answers Jesus by no longer calling him "Son of David" but "Lord": the Church has used this title from the beginning for the risen Jesus. The blind person asks to be able to see again, and his wish is heard: “You should see again. Your faith has saved you ”(v. 42). He showed his faith by calling Jesus and desperately wanting to meet him, and he was a gift that brought him salvation. Thanks to his faith, he can now see and, above all, he feels loved by Jesus.

Hence the account ends with the saying: "Then he praised God and followed Jesus" (v. 43): he becomes a disciple. From beggar to disciple, that too is our path: we are all beggars, all of us. We always need salvation. And we must all take this step every day: from beggars to disciples. And so the blind man follows the Lord and is accepted into his community. The one who was to be silenced now testifies with a loud voice his encounter with Jesus of Nazareth, and "all the people who saw this praised God" (v. 43). A second miracle happens: What happened to the blind man leads to people finally seeing too. The same light illuminates all and unites them in praise. So Jesus pours out his mercy on all he meets: he calls them, he lets them come to him, he gathers them, he heals them and he enlightens them. In this way he creates a new people who extol the wonders of his merciful love. Let us also let Jesus call us, let us heal us, let Jesus forgive us, and let us follow Jesus and praise God. So be it!

* * *

I warmly greet the brothers and sisters in the German language, especially the pilgrims from the Diocese of Trier with their Bishop Ackermann and with Auxiliary Bishop Brahm. I hope that your stay in Rome will strengthen your faith and deepen the experience of brotherly love. The Lord bless you and your families.