FRIDAY HOMILY: Do You Believe?
enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.
During the homily at the Mass marking the inauguration of my pontificate I said: "The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance."
Pope Benedict is calling the Church to a journey that, like the Israelites who had left Egypt, takes us through our wilderness wanderings and into the land of promise. While this land was going to provide everything that the chosen people of God would need for their physical life, the real essence of this destination is that they would be His people and He would be their God. This would be nation built on relationship.
The blind men who followed Jesus can help us to find this relationship. They said three things that will assist us on our journey to Christ. All we have to do is follow their lead.
Like the two following Jesus, we need to call out, "Have mercy on us!"
Our world's understanding is very different than that of Christ and His Church. Normally, when we hear someone cry out for mercy, we assume they are asking for two things - for something bad to cease or for someone in power to feel poorly for them in their distress and lend a helping hand.
God's mercy is much more than that.
In his encyclical "Dives in Misericoridia," Blessed John Paul II said that mercy "is love's second name." What a beautiful description of a term that defies a narrow definition.
We might see mercy as love in action, where the one who loves desires to render assistance, aid, or other resources needed to help the one being loved. In that sense, the two blind men were asking for God to respond in loving action regarding their condition.
We, too, have the opportunity to cry out for mercy; for God to come our aid in our distress out of His love for us. In fact, this is something we do every Mass and something we can take with us into the rest of the week.
In the Eastern Church many - and even some in the Western Church - practice what is called the Jesus Prayer, praying "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." In this short but powerful prayer we can find the fullness of the Gospel.
The Jesus Prayer is said repeatedly, often using a prayer rope or beads similar to what we use in the Rosary. It has been used to develop systems of contemplation. The key is to let this prayer become a regular part of life like our beating heart or breath. It keeps us living in the love of God.
When we ask God for mercy, we are asking to be drawn more deeply into His love, both offering our love to Him and to receive His love for our own needs as well as letting it pour out of our lives in the lives of others.
Son of David
In terms of my re-awakening to the things of God, I can be described as a product of the Jesus movement. This was a time in the late 60's and early 70's when Christianity - a new young vibrant and alive version of faith spread through the young people of the country.
There were some goofy things done in the name of the Lord during those times, but, for the most part, the results of this movement were quite good. It brought thousands upon thousands of young people into churches of all confessions, many who are still living for Christ today.
Most young people had during that time had what was called a life verse. This was a verse of Scripture they felt formed a strong basis upon which they wanted to build their lives. It became their motto, the theme for their lives.
Well, I had a life verse; actually it was two verses long. "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 14:4,5)
That verse formed the basis how I wanted to build my life spiritually. I recognized that Christ is the vine and the members of His Church form the branches. As we continue to live out our lives connected to Him - abiding or remaining in Him - He will cause my live to exhibit the fruit of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, self-control.
The reason these would be in me is from the love relationship I have developed with God the Son.
By the way, one great discovery about this commitment to abide came when I read John 6:56 - "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him." In other words, the Mass is one of the most important parts of abiding!
As the blind men were following after the Lord, they kept crying out, calling Him the "Son of David." This is a term used to describe the one who is the Messiah - the savior of whom the prophets spoke and for whom the nation of Israel was waiting. They wanted a divine connection - an abiding relationship with Him - and actually had a better vision of who Jesus was than those who were sighted.
When we pray, we are addressing the God of the very universe. Our prayers along with our songs of praise and acts of devotion are not being sent into an abyss or up into the clouds. The One who loves us with an everlasting love and desires to be intimately involved in our lives is hearing them.
We are participating in a supernatural and spiritual dimension of life. Our life, through our baptism, has begun to participate in a great cosmic work of salvation history that reaches through history and around the world. At the same time it is personalized into each of our hearts. Jesus is our savior; He is our Lord! We have an open invitation to come to him.
Our Lord's actual involvement with the two men begins with an interesting question - "Do you believe I am able to do this?" It was a question he asked in private, not in front of a crowd in order to create a spectacle.
This was a personal moment for these two men. Their response opened the door for more than just a conversation; they would receive a miracle.
Let's look at the question a moment - "Do you believe I am able." Jesus did not push them to believe it into existence, saying, "Do you believe it is going to happen?" or "Do you believe I will do this?"
Their whole trust was placed in Him, abandoning themselves to His will and purposes for their lives but fully confident that He had the ability to bring about the healing of their eyes.
Sightless and separated from the crowd, they were alone with the Son of David and his disciples. Whatever would happen, they were ready.
Then they felt the touch of someone's hand on their eyes. At that moment, brightness began to overtake their darkness. However many years they had been blind, this change would be staggering. Slowly shapes and colors could be made out and they could see the One they had been following.
What joy would be in their hearts! What excitement. They could see. Even though they were warned not to say a word, how could they keep silent? Their "yes" had become the gateway to healing.
When we say yes to the Lord, we, too, are opening ourselves to his purposes for our lives. The outcome may not be as startling as this miraculous healing. My own "yes" has become a true pathway of blessing - including some bumpy roads, since those experiences are just as important.
The Psalm for today's Mass readings states, "I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the LORD!"
This is the path the blind men followed; the path that millions throughout history have also hiked. This is the path out of the desert and into the land of promise, leading to relationship with our Lord and Savior; bringing about His purposes and living out His grace. Take heart, take courage, as the psalmist says and walk this path.
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: vine, branches, abiding, Jesus, Lordship, Year of Faith, personal relationship
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