Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the road begging. And hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant. So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he cried out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, “What do you want Me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. (Luke 18:35-43)
St Ephrem the Syrian in one of his poems praises the courage of the blind man to call out to Christ despite people trying to silence him. It is with this same courage that we sinners approach the Lord asking for His mercy in our lives:
Blessed are you, too, courageous blind man
whose great boldness enlightened you.
For if you had been silent as you were admonished,
silence would have kept you in darkness.
Blessed is your boldness for in it you also offer a type,
that the sinner, if he be bold, will obtain mercy.
(HYMNS, p 331)
The New Testament does indicate that at times people believed a person’s ailments (such as blindness) were the result of the person’s own sinfulness. Thus, the lack of sympathy for some that are ill or handicapped. (It’s similar to the modern notion that lung cancer is caused by smoking and so smokers sometimes are not viewed sympathetically if they get cancer. It is also why some are terrified when a non-smoker gets lung cancer as it defies reason and means anyone can get it whether they deserve it or not.)
The above Gospel lesson does not mention that the blind man’s condition resulted from sin, but the people trying to silence him make me think they had no sympathy for him. Jesus after all often healed the sick and so the crowd might try to get the blind man to Jesus. The crowd acting to silence the blind man tells me the crowd resented him though he was only seeking what many of them were. Even if the blindman was guilty of sin that caused his blindness, he still is the kind of person Christ came into the world to seek, heal and save. As St Paul says to Timothy: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:15). Even if his sin led to his blindness, his blindness led him to seek Christ! Christ rewards him for his effort. This person doesn’t blindly seek Christ, he boldly seeks Him.
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalm 34:17)