Friday of the First Week in Advent
Reading 1 IS 29:17-24
But a very little while,
and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard,
and the orchard be regarded as a forest!
On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book;
And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD,
and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
For the tyrant will be no more
and the arrogant will have gone;
All who are alert to do evil will be cut off,
those whose mere word condemns a man,
Who ensnare his defender at the gate,
and leave the just man with an empty claim.
Therefore thus says the LORD,
the God of the house of Jacob,
who redeemed Abraham:
Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of,
nor shall his face grow pale.
When his children see
the work of my hands in his midst,
They shall keep my name holy;
they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob,
and be in awe of the God of Israel.
Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding,
and those who find fault shall receive instruction.
Responsorial Psalm PS 27:1, 4, 13-14
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Behold, our Lord shall come with power;
he will enlighten the eyes of his servants.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MT 9:27-31
As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out,
“Son of David, have pity on us!”
When he entered the house,
the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them,
“Do you believe that I can do this?”
“Yes, Lord,” they said to him.
Then he touched their eyes and said,
“Let it be done for you according to your faith.”
And their eyes were opened.
Jesus warned them sternly,
“See that no one knows about this.”
But they went out and spread word of him through all that land.
Today’s Mass is about seeing. The Gospel speaks about the healing of two blind men. It is a story which we find in Mark’s gospel but here with significant differences. For instance, Mark has only one blind man while Matthew has two. We should not just read this as just another miracle, another proof of Jesus’ divine power. It begins with two blind men going after Jesus calling after him in desperation: “Have compassion on us, Son of David!”
There is more here than meets the eye! What we have here is not just the restoration of their physical sight. They have gained in-sight. They can really see. They can see who Jesus really is, the Word of God, the Action of God and they simply have to share that experience with everyone else. It is not something that they can keep to themselves.
It is significant that the following story is about the healing of a dumb man. There are several instances of Jesus healing deafness and blindness in the Gospel. As disciples of Christ we need to be able to see and understand the message of Jesus and then we need to proclaim it everywhere.
Today is a day for us to be aware of our own blindness and our own deafness. We often have difficulty really hearing and accepting the Word of God and how many us can claim that we can see Jesus as he really is?
Do you believe? This is what God is asking of us. Indeed, in the first reading, to the Israelites who lived in exile in Babylon, who had lost everything – land, the Kingdom and the Temple – the Lord says to them, “In a short time, a very short time, shall not Lebanon become fertile land and fertile land turn into forest? The deaf that day, will hear the words of a book and, after shadow and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see. But the lowly will rejoice in the Lord even more and the poorest exult in the Holy One of Israel; for tyrants shall be no more, and scoffers vanish, and all be destroyed who are disposed to do evil: those who gossip to incriminate others, those who try at the gate to trip the arbitrator and get the upright man’s case dismissed for groundless reasons.” Is this dream possible? Truly, the Israelites found it too difficult to believe that this prophecy would come true. Again, in the gospel, Jesus asked the same question to the two blind men, “Do you believe I can do this?”
Indeed, many of us are like them in exile. We too are desperate and walking in the shadow of death. The situation in our life does not seem to be moving forward or changing. We are still stuck in our problems or the mess we have created because of our folly. Our marriage is now on the rocks. We are still unable to accept the infidelity of our spouse even though they have asked for forgiveness. We say we want to forgive but we are still hurting. Our children are not doing well in their studies and abusing the trust and privileges given to them. Many people, young and old are addicted to drugs, gambling, especially on-line gambling, pornography and drinking. On top of all these problems, we are struggling with work politics, low morale among our staff, health issues, physical or mental, depression and meaninglessness. Some of us wish we could die earlier because we are sick of life, of this world. Friends are not real. They cheat us and make use of us. With financial commitments, anxieties about the future, and all the confusion in life, we feel so overwhelmed.
If we are feeling this way, then do not give up hope. God is on the way to rescue us. This is what the prophet said, “Therefore the Lord speaks, the God of the House of Jacob, Abraham’s redeemer: No longer shall Jacob be ashamed, no more shall his face grow pale, for he shall see what my hands have done in his midst, he shall hold my name holy. They will hallow the Holy One of Jacob, stand in awe of the God of Israel.” For Israel, they were finally able to return to their homeland because of King Cyrus’ decree to allow them to return and rebuild their homes and especially the Temple, with his support even, financially and morally.
For us, Christ is our redeemer, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. He has come to set us free, to heal us and redeem us from our sins, slavery and misery. He is full of compassion and mercy like our heavenly Father. He will give us back our dignity and confidence in living our life with purpose and meaning. He will help us to overcome all fears. How will He help us? By showing us the way to live our life meaningfully and courageously! He will show us how to conquer the fear of death and most of all, how to bear our crosses joyfully after Him. He will free us from all our bondages and give us true freedom, the freedom to love freely and totally. He will help us to live each day by living one day at a time, with faith and with joy. He has come to give us the light for our salvation. This is what the psalmist says. “The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; before whom shall I shrink? I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Hope in him, hold firm and take heart. Hope in the Lord!” Indeed, this is the invitation today for those who have lost hope and courage in life. Hope in the Lord! Come to Him and He will heal us and give us life once again, in the land of the living.
How will this happen? By delivering us from our blindness as He did for the two blind men! It is the lack of spiritual understanding that prevents us from seeing the mysteries of life in perspective. Because of the dullness of mind and our ignorance, we are shortsighted and too myopic in the way we look at our challenges and sufferings. We need to ask what is causing us to be unhappy. Most of the time, our sins, selfishness and desires make us grasp, hanker and cling on to what we want. This leads to envy, greed, anger and discontentment. At times, it is because of our pride, the refusal to admit our mistakes and our prejudices. We allow our pride to blind us in doing things that serve our ego rather than doing what is right and good. By insisting to have things our way, which is the offspring of pride, namely, arrogance and stubbornness, we hurt ourselves.
That is why Jesus is asking us as He did with the blind men, “Do you believe I can do this?” In other words, He is asking firstly whether we really want to see. There is a responsibility when we see. It is said that where ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise. So the ability to see means that we have to do what we know is the truth. Otherwise, we will suffer guilt for being culpable in not doing the right things when we know that this is required of us. If we are desperate and sincere like the blind men who really wanted to see, then we need to follow Jesus as they did to the house where He was in.
But we cannot see clearly unless we see with faith. This explains why the Church always says that whilst faith is not against reason, faith purifies reason. Using human reason alone, whilst not impossible, often will not lead us to the fullness of truth. Faith gives us the eyes to see beyond reason. Faith enables us to see more. Isn’t it true that when we trust someone, we can understand that person better and see more in what he is saying than with someone whom we do not trust or do not know? So if anyone wants to see, he or she must first confess his or her faith in Jesus who is the Light of the World, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Faith in Jesus will allow our hearts to be receptive to His Word and understand what He is saying, not just with our head but with our heart. Only such understanding from the heart can bring about total conviction of mind and heart.
To come to see, means that from now on, we see through the eyes of Jesus, whether it is with respect to suffering, to living a life of truth or doing the will of God. In other words, to see means to look at life with the lens of Jesus. With Jesus, recovery of sight does not mean that our sufferings are taken away. Rather, the pain could be embraced in the light of God’s truth and His own suffering for us. In other words, we see sufferings, injustices, hurts and illnesses in a different light. Once we have the light of Christ, then we will stop hurting ourselves by refraining from those actions that will destroy us. We will then be able to let go of those who have hurt us. We learn contentment and not crave for this and that thing. We learn to let go even of loved ones and those whom we love so dearly but who no longer love us. Like Jesus, we learn to accommodate others, their strengths and weaknesses, not to be judgmental but to be understanding, forgiving and encouraging. Most of all, with spiritual sight, we can unravel all our unconscious motivations in what we do and why we do so that our intentions are purer and not simply a cover up of our insecurities, our need for affirmation and acceptance, but truly because of love.
So we must pray earnestly and be watchful. The prophet says, “Erring spirits will learn wisdom and murmurers accept instruction.” Seeing entails reading the Word of God and acquiring the Wisdom of God to judge all things. We are called to place our total trust in Jesus. Like the blind men, we only have to believe. Jesus says to them, “Your faith deserves it, so let this be done for you.” Only faith in Jesus can give us the courage to surrender our lives to Him, trust in His Word and claim His promises. With faith in Jesus, we know that He can work wonders in our lives. Nothing is impossible for Him.
With the psalmist, we too will say, “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” For the Israelites, it was simply unbelievable that they could return to their homeland. It will be the same for us, if we trust the Lord. He will help us find ourselves and we will be at home with ourselves, living a life of contentment, enjoying the simple things of life, but most of all, living a life of love, meaning and purpose. Regardless of the situation, we are able to take His will and take things as they come, for we know that submission to His will is the way we find peace. Indeed, being at home with the Lord is what gives us joy and peace. “There is one thing I ask of the Lord, for this I long, to live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, to savour the sweetness of the Lord, to behold his temple.” In His house, when He lives in us, we find perfect peace and joy.
Tags: And out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see., December 2 2016, First Week of Advent, Is 29:17-24, Jesus heals the blind, learn how to listen to God’s Word, Let it be done for you according to your faith, Mt 9:27-31, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 27, The Word of God, Then he touched their eyes and said