The four verses immediately preceding the story of the blind beggar of Jericho (today's Gospel passage) contain one more "prediction" of the passion. This particular prediction is so detailed (He will be handed over to the Gentiles and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon; and after they have scourged him they will kill him . . .[Luke 18:32-33]) that it is almost certainly a post-resurrection emendation to the Gospel. The prediction ends with mentioning that the disciples do not understand what Jesus is saying. They find themselves almost on the doorstep of Jerusalem where the passion and death of Jesus will play out. They have walked with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem listening to his preaching. They have witnessed the many signs and wonders that he has worked, but they still do not understand. Lest we be too hard on them, let us remember that we have known the end of the story for over 2,000 years.
By including the story of the blind beggar of Jericho immediately after this prediction, St. Luke is also accentuating the fact that the disciples are "blind" to all that has been going on around them. They are following Jesus to Jerusalem, but they seem not to comprehend what might happen to them if they are found in Jesus' company as he is arrested, tried, condemned and executed. Just as their eyes are blind when it comes to the prediction, they are also blind to the consequences of following Jesus.
This is what makes the story of the blind beggar so remarkable. After Jesus opens his eyes, the evangelist includes the detail that the beggar follows Jesus. Here is a man with his eyes wide open who chooses to follow Jesus on his way to his own execution. He stands as a literary foil for the blind disciples who follow Jesus in "blindness."
Once again, Jesus heals with the familiar words: Your faith has saved you (Luke 18:42b). As we near the end of the year of faith this coming Sunday, we would do well to pause and ask if we possess the eyes of faith. Faith does not answer all of our questions about God, about the presence of sin in the world, about the life to come. Rather, faith makes it possible for us to walk with Jesus through the difficulties we must all face: the loss of loved ones, our own health difficulties, financial disruption in our lives, and a host of other hurdles we all have to leap over on our journey to Jerusalem. The faith which opened the eyes of the blind beggar of Jericho makes it possible to set aside the issues we don't understand so that we can accept Jesus and the love God has shown us in him.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator