Christ seems to love teasing us. In the Gospel story it turns out to be a blind man who is the only one to see the true identity of Christ. It is a roadside beggar who turns out to be richest of all – in faith. It is the one who is usually left behind; the blind beggar who is scolded and reprimanded for his impertinence who is called forward, who takes courage and who follows.
It is the trademark of the Messiah to gather in the bruised and broken and to call all to faith in God the Father by recognising him for who he is. The Christ, the son and descendant of David, the great king, has a mission to gather in the scattered, and to guide them home by the light of faith and understanding. The blind and the lame; the weak and the delicate; all those who were scattered, or who left in tears are to be led home, as if to a banquet, a harvest thanksgiving, rejoicing. That was the prophecy of the Old Testament Scriptures and of Jeremiah. Now the people see it coming to pass.
Jesus enquires of the blind man, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The answer seems obvious to us in hindsight yet the same question to ourselves might be difficult to answer. What do we want God to do for us? If God were to reveal himself to us by answering our prayers, would we believe, and follow like the blind man?
I was speaking to a parent recently who was trying very bravely to help his son through addiction to drugs. He told me that he knew his son dabbled in soft drugs but he did not think that his addiction was so serious. ‘You know how blind parents can be, he said to me. I know how blind any of us can be, I told him. We all have our own blind-spots as we call them. When we understand something for the first time we sometimes exclaim, ‘I see’!
If we could always see clearly; if we could understand fully; if we could follow wholeheartedly; if we could acknowledge that Jesus truly is the promised, divine Son of the Father, the Messiah and son of David, would we, like the blind man, ask for his mercy? Would we pay more attention to Christ’s words and follow him more faith-fully?
Just as our sight orients us to the world, the light of faith guides and directs us, especially in dark or difficult times. This is symbolised in the baptismal candle. Faith continues to guide our weary way and to light up our path through the maze of life. The light of faith splutters still in our hearts and we believe in the muddle of our unbelief. Like the candle flame, however, faith needs to be sheltered and protected and fed. Otherwise it extinguishes, it blows out and all that is left is a puff of smoke, a smell of grease and darkness.
Eternal rest, we say, is our final goal. It is the last prayer at our gravesides. We pray too for perpetual light, when we will truly see God with our own eyes and with the eye of understanding. We will then be gathered in from exile by him who is our hope and our freedom. We will truly understand and believe because we will see him and live with him and with all the faithful dead in a blessed existence. We sometimes refer to this seeing, praising and understanding God as the, “beatific vision”.