Monday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary time
Apocalypse 1:1-4,2:1-5; Psalm 1:1-4,6; Luke 18:35-43
Think about the ride to school or work this morning. What did you remember? Take a moment to think about that. For many years I had an hour-long commute to and from school daily and even though the route was rather scenic, I rarely took notice of what was outside the bus. I was usually either fast asleep or buried in a book. It took a colleague joining me on a particular day to open my eyes to the beauty of the surroundings outside the bus. We often don’t notice when we’re doing something routine. Habits get the better of us and we are content to just do the ordinary.The First Reading reminds us of that. The book of the Apocalypse can be confusing with its multitude of different images but I saw one main point from today’s selection. The angel told the people at Ephesus that though they were doing good, they showed less love. Just like the readings of last Monday, we’re reminded that just doing some good is not quite enough. We need to be transformed through the love of God to do things out of love. Doing in the way of the Ephesians becomes a habit that shows little love. They might not be doing whatever they were doing for the right reasons or even for any reason at all.
I see parallels with what John wrote and modern life. We moderns like routine and a certain amount of predictability. I remember learning about the word ‘automacity’ when I was writing a paper on vocational education. Automacity is a uniquely modern concept that has to do with us wanting to learn how to do things automatically, without the need for too much thought. Many people like systems and neatness but the question for us in relation to that is, ‘What happens when things fall outside the routine?’
Blind man in the Gospel is an example. He is named Bartimaeus in the Gospel of Mark but remains unnamed here. I noticed two distinct groups in the reading: the blind man and everyone else. The Lord stands a little apart, almost watching how these two groups interact.
The first movement in the story is that the blind man notices the Lord coming by. He feels something different in the commotion around him and asks about it. Perhaps his senses were heightened by his lack of sight but he noticed. This can be contrasted with the other people following Jesus who don’t quite notice the blind man until the latter called out. And when they did notice him, all they did was to try to shut him up.
The others who tried to shut the blind man up are examples of those stuck in routines. Just like us in our buses and cars, looking at many things but not seeing or noticing anything much at all. They were doing, moving with the Lord but showed no love for their neighbour. If they had love for their neighbour they would have at least reached out in some way.
The blind man’s persistence, in the face of opposition is also significant. He persisted in calling out to the Lord in spite of the scoldings and possibly even beatings of the others, against the apparent ‘reason’ of the world. ‘Reason’ for the others was to go on and carry on their journey to Jericho and Jerusalem. Anyway, what can they do for a blind man anyway? The blind man ignores that and goes for what he truly desires.
What follows was a wonderful exchange with the Lord. The blind man was asked what he wanted and he was able to express his heart’s desire without hesitation, openly and bravely. All because he noticed (and could recognise the Lord as the ‘Son of David’) and had the faith to follow up on that. One might go so far as to say that his awareness, his ability to notice contributed to his faith.
I wonder if the others who wanted to walk on or those who scolded the blind man had the same faith. After all, they had little awareness and were just cruising along, doing but not loving. This is a cautionary tale for all of us, of the need to be aware and not to act just on habits or routine. We need to keep our eyes open to the needs of others around us else we do things with less love. Loving dearly and acting justly should flow from our awareness.
The end of the Gospel shows eyes being opened but it’s more than just the literal eyes of the blind man being opened. The eyes of the others who journeyed with the Lord were opened to the realities of the world. This short episode probably allowed them to see some of their deficiencies, some of the habits that they need to change, or routines that need to be broken. Their awareness of the realities of the world allowed them to praise God at the miracle that they witnessed and hopefully would make them move around with eyes and hearts open, able to live more than do, and love greatly.