The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
We begin with our reading from the Holy Gospel of Saint Mark:
“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man- Bartimaeus, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout; “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!”
“Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He is calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man replied, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” At once he received his sight and he followed Jesus along the road.”
Bartimaeus lived most of his life being blind. Living in darkness. No doubt his other senses grew more in sensitivity with his disability, and compensated for his blindness. There are many documented cases of people who suffer from acute Savant Syndrome, being given miraculous gifts and abilities beyond what we would consider their limitations.
But what of are limitations? Our disabilities? Our blindness?
We live our lives comfortably, in a time when most of the world only knows suffering- hunger, war, displacement, dispossession and discouragement. Sadly, we don’t need to travel to a foreign country to witness such despair. According to the USDA 22% of American children (16.4 million!) live at the poverty level or below and 56% of households with children under the age of 3 participated Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants and Children(WIC). In 37 states, at least 20% of households were categorized as being “households without consistent access to food”. (Two states at the high end of this scale- Oregon and Arizona at 29%!)
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Rural Housing Assistance Corporation; states that 46% of all housing in an area of 179 counties combined from Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia- the bulk of the Appalachia backbone, is considered “substandard” (no running water, inadequate plumbing, inadequate insulation, unsafe foundations, roofs and wiring). The Appalachia Regional Commission of the US Department of Labor, suggests this area to be hardest hit by unemployment- reporting only 35 of the 420 counties in the ARC demographic area as indicating any “positive employment trend.”
Our Lectionary for this Sunday, refers us to Psalm 13: “How long, my Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” [Psalm 13:1]
We are always seeking to find God, but perhaps God has another plan. Maybe he wants us to find someone else instead. He begs for us to help those who have called out to him. We are God’s answer to the problem. We must open our eyes. We must not be blind to the plight of those less fortunate than ourselves. In doing so, our eyes will be opened and we will truly see God.
There is a Christian recording artist, Steven Curtis Chapman, who has an appropriate song that echos this sentiment in our search for God- The face of Jesus. “I saw the face of Jesus on a little orphan girl, standing on a corner on the other side of the world. I saw the face of Jesus on a little homeless boy, sleeping in a car on Sixteenth Avenue while his mother looked for food. And I heard the voice of Jesus, gently whisper to my heart- Didn’t you say you wanted to find me? Well here I am and there you are. I know I may not look like what you expected, but if you remember I am right where I said I would be. So, now that you’ve found me- what now?”
Almighty and most merciful God. Open my eyes so that I might see where help needs to be given. Open my ears so that I might hear the cries for help. Open my lips so that I might encourage and inspire others to help. And most importantly God, open my wallet so that I might donate to those in need. Open my heart so that I might give my time. We are, after all here, so that you might use us to do your good will- that we help our brothers and sisters carry their cross. And to do this- we need to see. Really see. Amen.