04Dec 4/12. Friday, Week 1 of Advent

Saint John Damascene, optional memorial

1st Reading: Isaiah 29:17-24

A promise of good times, when deaf shall hear and blind shall see

Shall not Lebanon in a very little while become a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field be regarded as a forest?

On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll,
and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.

The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,
and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

For the tyrant shall be no more, and the scoffer shall cease to be;
all those alert to do evil shall be cut off —

those who cause person to lose a lawsuit,
who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate,
and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right.

Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:
No longer shall Jacob be ashamed, no longer shall his face grow pale.

For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst,
they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
And those who err in spirit will come to understanding,
and those who grumble will accept instruction.

Gospel: Matthew 9:27-31

Cure of two blind men saved by their faith in Jesus

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes and said, “according to your faith let it be done to you.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, “See that no one knows of this.” But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district.

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Healing touch

Listening to Isaiah today, we may wonder if optimism blinded his common sense, so much does he focus on things that are not here yet. Was he dreaming as he wrote: “The deaf shall hear, the eyes of the blind shall see, the tyrant will be no more, Jacob shall have no longer be ashamed.” A similar impression could be made by today’s Gospel. Two blind men are cured by Jesus. The cynic will carp about the ninety-eight others who remained blind! And of course, even today as during the miraculous life of Jesus there are many deaf people who do not get back their hearing, many blind who may never see again, many tyrants still ruling on earth, and many upright people who are put to shame. Isaiah held that in “a very little while” all this misery would cease. Yet we are still waiting for this magnificent transformation.

A detail in the Gospel may help to clarify this mention of “a very little while. ” Jesus did not cure the two blind men immediately. They followed him at some distance, calling out, “Son of David, have pity on us!” They caught up with him only when he had arrived at the house where he was staying that night. Only then, when Jesus touched their eyes, were they cured. We too must follow Jesus with our desires and hopes — but also with patience. Jesus waited until the two blind men had caught up with him.

He asked the two blind men: “Do you trust I can do this?” When they answered, “Yes, Lord!” he reached out and touched their eyes — gently, lovingly, prayerfully. Jesus can help us only when we have faith in his goodness and let him touch us where we are weak and in need. As he touched them, he said, “Because of your faith, it shall be done to you.” We must trust that his love will overcome every obstacle. In a true sense love is blind to the obstacles of fear and selfishness. Once Jesus touches us, Isaiah’s words come true. In that “very little while” there is an interchange of love and confidence — and we regain our full selves.

Persistence pays

I can’t help noticing the persistence of the two blind men in today’s gospel. They don’t just come up to Jesus and ask him to heal them. Rather, while Jesus is walking along they follow him shouting, “Take pity on us, Son of David.” They kept shouting until Jesus reached the house to which he was going, at which point Jesus turned to them and said, “Do you believe I can do this?” Their shout was, of course, a prayer of petition, an expression of their faith in Jesus. Their answer to Jesus’ question was another expression of their faith, “Sir, we do”

This image of the two blind men continually making their prayer of faith as Jesus walks along invites us to keep on praying out of our own faith. Like the two blind men, we very often pray when we’re aware of our need. Thankfully, most of us have the gift of sight, but we are all needy in other ways. There can be areas of blindness in our lives that need healing; we all struggle with weakness and disability of one kind or another, ways in which we are broken and vulnerable. The example of the two blind men encourages us to keep turning to the Lord in prayer, even when he appears not to be listening to us. Our prayer of faith will not ultimately go unanswered. [Martin Hogan]

Saint John Damascene, doctor of the Church.

John of Damascus (675-749) was a Syrian monk and priest, born in Damascus, who died in Mar Saba monastery, near Jerusalem. A polymath whose studies included law, theology, philosophy and music, before being ordained he served as administrator to the Muslim caliph of Damascus. A gifted preacher who was called Chrysorrhoas, (.”ouring out gold.”or .”loquent one.” he also wrote treatises and composed hymns promoting the Christian faith. This .”ast of the Fathers.”of the Eastern church is best known for his strong defense of icons against the iconoclast movement.

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