“Jesus pours out his mercy on everyone He meets: He calls, gathers, heals and enlightens them, creating a new people that celebrates the wonders of His merciful love.” The catechesis of today’s Papal Audience focuses on the miracle of the blind man of Jericho, narrated in the Gospel of Luke. Pope Francis addresses thousands of pilgrims flocked in St. Peter’s Square, in the sultry summer sun: “Today we want to grasp the meaning of this sign because it concerns us personally. The evangelist Luke says that the blind man was sitting on the side of the road, begging.” At that time, a blind man “could only live on charity.” Paraphrasing, this blind man “represents many people who are still marginalized today because of their physical handicap or another kind of deficiency”. He lives outside the society, “he is simply sitting there, as people rush by”. The road, which is usually a place of encounter, “is a place of solitude for him”.
It is a sad picture: an outcast who lives on the streets, and “and the city of Jericho in the background, a beautiful, gorgeous oasis in the desert.” It is an ancient city that “represents the gateway to the promised land”. In fact, Jericho is “where the people of Israel arrived, after its long exodus from Egypt.” The Pope quotes Moses’ words written in the book of Deuteronomy: “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. (Deut 15,7.11)”.
There is a striking contrast between the divine recommendation and the situation described by Luke: “the blind man cries out, invoking Jesus, and people reproach him, so he keeps quiet. They have no mercy on him, his cries are a nuisance for them. Indifference and hostility make people blind and deaf, prevent them from seeing their own siblings, and do not allow to recognize the Lord in them.” Francis points out one thing: “The evangelist says that someone in the crowd told the blind man why there were so many people: ‘Jesus of Nazareth will pass here!’. Jesus’ passage is indicated by the same verb with which the book of Exodus speaks of exterminating angel who saves the Israelites in the land of Egypt. It is the ‘passage’ of the Passover, the beginning of liberation.”
In a way, it is as if ” his Passover were announced. Undaunted, he repeatedly cries out to Jesus, recognizing him as the Son of David, the awaited Messiah who, according to the prophet Isaiah, would have opened the eyes of the blind man (cf. Is 35,5). Unlike the crowd, this blind man sees with the eyes of faith. Thanks to it, his supplication has a powerful effect.” The screams of the beggar reach Jesus’ ears. He stopped and ordered to lead the beggar to him. Thus, “Jesus takes the blind man away from the side of the road and makes him the center of attention, both of his disciples and of the crowds.”
A “double passage is created. The first one: people had announced the good news to the blind man, but did not want to have anything to do with him; now Jesus forces everyone to become aware that the good news involves making someone become the center of your path, someone who you have left out of it so far. The second one: the blind man could not see, but his faith opens the way to his salvation, and he finds himself in the midst of those who took to the streets to see Jesus. The passage of the Lord is a merciful encounter that unites everyone around him, to allow to recognize those who need help and consolation.”
The way Jesus addresse the blind man is extraordinary. He asks him: “What do you want me to do for you?” Francis describes these words as “striking.” The Son of God is now in front of the blind man, like a humble servant. “God becomes the servant of the sinful man. The blind man answered Jesus no longer calling him ‘Son of David’, but ‘the Lord’, the title the Church has been giving to the Risen Jesus since the very beginning. The blind man asks to make him able to see again, and his wish is granted. He showed his faith when he invoked Jesus and wanted to meet him at any cost, and he received the gift of salvation for this. Thanks to faith, he can see now, and above all, he feels Jesus loves him.”
“That is why the story ends telling us that the blind man” began to follow him, glorifying God.” The beggar becomes “a disciple because he follows the Lord’ and becomes part of His community. The one they wanted to silence, now testifies loudly his encounter with Jesus of Nazareth, and all the people, seeing him, gave praise to God’. The second miracle happens: what happened to the blind man finally gives sight also to people. The light full of mercy “enlightens and unites everyone in the prayer of praise. In a similar way, Jesus pours out his mercy on everyone He meets: He calls, gathers, heals and enlightens them, creating a new people that celebrates the wonders of His merciful love”.