Tag Archives: blindness

30 March: What Do You Want Me To Do For You?

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Here is Sister Johanna once more, Welcome! We are following Jesus as he gets nearer to the Cross – the next chapter of Luke tells of Palm Sunday, but today he meets a blind beggar. In Sister’s reflection there is a question not unlike Woodbine Willy’s ‘Well?’ the other day: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’

There was a blind man sitting at the side of the road begging…. He called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’… Jesus stopped and ordered them to bring the man to him, and when he came up, he said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Sir,’ the blind man said, ‘Let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.’ 

Luke 18: 35-43.

This passage from the Gospel of Luke tells me a lot about what it means truly to encounter Jesus in prayer. I’ve read this story many times, but this time when I read it, I was at first a bit taken aback by the apparently daft question Jesus asks the blind man: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Well, I thought, he obviously wants to be healed of his blindness. But then I realised that the blind man could have had other issues; his blindness might not have been the priority for him. Perhaps he had a son on the verge of death, or perhaps he had other illnesses that were not evident. It could have been anything. The question is a highly important one. Jesus wanted the blind man to state his wishes so that he, the blind man, would be fully aware of what he was asking and could take full responsibility for the encounter and for what might happen next.

Sir, let me see again,’ the blind man says. This in itself is impressive – and Jesus doesn’t miss the fact that the blind man expresses no doubts about Jesus’ ability to heal him. His faith rings out with clarity. Moreover, the blind man knows what he wants. He does not hesitate or appear to weigh alternatives before speaking. He wants to see again, and he knows that Jesus is able to bring this cure about. And Jesus’ answer? Direct, simple, almost off-hand. A modern-day Jesus might have said simply, ‘Sure! See! You are already half-way there because of your faith.’

So what does this tell me about asking Jesus for something? About prayer?

  1. The text says, ‘Jesus ordered them to bring the man to him.’ It is important, therefore, to go right up to Jesus, and have a real encounter with him, to be aware of him and to address my prayer to him. I should not just be talking to myself or dreaming. I must, in my mind and heart, stand before Jesus, and be in his presence, when I pray.

  2. It is important to be clear, to tell Jesus what I want and not, out of some misguided idea of abandonment to the divine will, go all vague. Moreover, I must take responsibility for my request. There may be times, perhaps many times, when we do not receive the specific grace we have asked for – but we can be sure that we always receive something, and usually it is a grace that goes much deeper than the one we requested. Eventually we will be able to identify that deeper grace as the real answer to our prayer. But unless we make that original request specific, and own it, this deeper grace would probably have gone unrecognized – and perhaps would not even have been bestowed.

  3. Jesus easily cures the blind man, without a laying on of hands or any other physical process. He merely utters the healing words. He is able to do this because the blind man trusts him completely – his faith saves him, as Jesus declares afterward. The blind man, presumably, had never met Jesus before; he knew him only from hearsay (rather like us). And that was enough for the blind man. Is it enough for me?

  4. Jesus’ question, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ tells me a great deal about Jesus’ eternal ‘attitude’ toward us whenever we go right up to him, in faith, and ask him something. He is already there, saying, ‘Johanna, or Tom, or Annette, what do you want me to do for you?’ He places himself completely at my disposal.

  5. And what is my answer?

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1 February: Proverbs 13:21-23. Hmm.

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My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: so shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck. Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.  

Proverbs 13:21-23.

A couple of days before I wrote this reflection, I allowed wisdom and discretion to depart from mine eyes. I walked out of my way in the season of wet leaves: my foot stumbled, I fell heavily, ‘nearly broke my neck’ as my father used to say, and actually broke my thumb – but I live to tell the tale. The family are threatening me with all sorts of restrictions and personal alarms, in fun, I hope; and Christmas passed without a gift-wrapped personal alarm to my stocking.

But of course, we should keep our eyes open, and see the world through the lenses of wisdom and discretion. The Book of Proverbs is full of advice which we will dip into over the coming months, but here’s another take on wisdom and discretion. The wise and sometimes indiscreet Dominican friar, Herbert McCabe said that, ‘the notion of blind obedience makes no more sense in our tradition than blind learning.’* And is that more of a challenge for the one commanding, or for the one expected to obey?

*Quoted in Timothy Ratcliffe OP,  Alive in God, A Christian Imagination, London, Bloomsbury, 2019

 

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September 4. Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXXIII: He is given a great promise.

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SAINT FRANCIS being on a time grievously afflicted in his eyes, Cardinal Ugolino, protector of the Order, for the great tenderness that he bore him, wrote unto him to come to him in Rieti, wherein dwelt most cunning physicians for the eyes. Then Saint Francis, having received the letter of the cardinal, gat him first to Saint Damian’s, where was Saint Clare, the devout bride of Christ, for to give her some consolation and thereafter go to the cardinal.

Saint Francis having won there, his eyes grew so much worse on the next ensuing night that he could not see the light a whit; wherefore he could not go upon his way. Saint Clare let build for him a little cell of reeds, wherein he might the better rest himself. But Saint Francis, what with the pain of his infirmity, and what with the multitude of rats, that did him exceeding great annoy, could find, nor day, nor night, no rest at all. And having yet more of such pains and tribulation to endure, he began to think and understand that this was a scourge from God for his sins; and to thank God with all his heart and with his mouth, and anon cried with a loud voice, saying:
«My Lord, of all this am I deserving, and much worse. My Lord Jesu Christ, Thou good Shepherd, who dost show forth Thy mercy to us sinners in diverse pains and anguish of the body, grant unto me, Thy little sheep, such grace and virtue that through no infirmity and agony or pain may I ever part from Thee.” While thus he prayed, there came a voice from heaven that said: “Francis, answer me; if all the world were gold, and all the seas and streams and fountains were balm, and all the mountains and hills and rocks were precious stones; and thou shouldst find a treasure yet more noble than these things, as much as gold is nobler than earth, and balm than water, and precious stones than mountains and rocks, and if for thine infirmity that nobler treasure were given wouldst thou not be well content therewith and right glad?”

Replied Saint Francis:
“Lord, I am not worthy of so precious a treasure”;

and the voice of God spake unto him:

“Rejoice, Francis, for this is the treasure of eternal life, the which I have laid up for
thee, and from this hour I give it thee in possession; and this infirmity and affliction is the earnest of that blessed treasure.”

Then Saint Francis called his companion, with great joy in so glorious a promise, and said: “Let us go unto the cardinal,” but first of all consoling Saint Clare with holy words, and humbly taking leave of her, he set out on the way to Rieti.

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