Jesus, Our Light – Lord, Please Let Me See
This week the first reading will be taken from the two canonical books of the Maccabees. These tell the story of the epic fight of the Jews against the Syrian empire. The Syrian king wanted to unify the kingdom under Hellenistic culture. Many Jews felt that their adherence to the Mosaic law isolated them and went along, but a faithful core, later most of the Jewish people, fought to defend their faith and their culture, some even sacrificing their lives for this purpose.
After Jesus had scolded the apostles for their lack of understanding and faith, Luke shows him curing the blind man. Is it perhaps to teach the apostles a lesson and showing them that they need to be healed from their inner blindness, lack of faith? In any case, Jesus becomes light and gives light to the blind man. We ask our Lord to give us eyes of faith.
1 Reading: 1 Maccabees 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63
From the descendants of Alexander’s officers there sprang a sinful offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus, once a hostage at Rome. He became king in the year one hundred and thirty seven of the kingdom of the Greeks. In those days there appeared in Israel men who were breakers of the law, and they seduced many people, saying: “Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us; since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us.” The proposal was agreeable; some from among the people promptly went to the king, and he authorized them to introduce the way of living of the Gentiles. Thereupon they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem according to the Gentile custom. They covered over the mark of their circumcision and abandoned the holy covenant; they allied themselves with the Gentiles and sold themselves to wrongdoing. Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, each abandoning his particular customs. All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king, and many children of Israel were in favour of his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. On the fifteenth day of the month Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-five, the king erected the horrible abomination upon the altar of burnt offerings and in the surrounding cities of Judah they built pagan altars. They also burned incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. Any scrolls of the law which they found they tore up and burnt. Whoever was found with a scroll of the covenant, and whoever observed the law, was condemned to death by royal decree. But many in Israel were determined and resolved in their hearts not to eat anything unclean; they preferred to die rather than to be defiled with unclean food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. Terrible affliction was upon Israel.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 119:53, 61, 134, 150, 155, 158
R. (see 88) Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.
Indignation seizes me because of the wicked
who forsake your law. R.
Though the snares of the wicked are twined about me,
your law I have not forgotten. R.
Redeem me from the oppression of men,
that I may keep your precepts. R.
I am attacked by malicious persecutors
who are far from your law. R.
Far from sinners is salvation,
because they seek not your statutes. R.
I beheld the apostates with loathing,
because they kept not to your promise. R.
Alleluia: John 8:12
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Luke 18:35-43
As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging, and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, please let me see.” Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God. When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.
This week we begin a series of readings from the Books of Maccabees. These books recount events from the period of Greek domination of Palestine. The heroism of the Maccabees resulted in a limited and short-lived period of freedom for the Israelites. However, it was a period in which the faith of the Jewish people was put to a very severe test. This was especially true during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BC.
Today’s reading recounts some of the blasphemies inflicted upon the Jews by Antiochus. It was during his reign that the gymnasium, a purely pagan invention for athletics and entertainment, was introduced to Jewish culture. It helped to launch a period of serious immorality in the country. He further ordered that his own pagan religion should be the official cult. His order was accepted by the Gentiles and “many even from Israel.” His greatest blasphemy was the construction of an altar to the Greek god Zeus within the Lord’s temple (“a desolation of sacrilege”). Roadside altars to pagan gods were constructed throughout the country. Scrolls of the Jewish law were destroyed, and many devout Jews were put to death. The period of Antiochus proved to be one of the saddest in the history of the Hebrew nation.
Today’s Gospel is of a very different cut. The blind man on the Jericho road cries out to Jesus for mercy. When silenced by the people, he cries out even louder. Jesus calls him and inquires about his request. It is his sight that he wants, and due to his great faith, he is healed. He sets about to follow Jesus. Remember, he overcomes one of the greatest obstacles to our encountering Jesus: the (faceless) crowd. But the negative action of the people motivates him the more.
There is no shortage of “cultural abominations” surrounding us today. Many have been blinded to the presence of God in our midst. Along with the Jericho blind man, in our very troubled times, we pray that we may continue to see.
When we are at times blind to what God asks of us, we too cry out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us. Let me see again.” And may he answer us, “Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.” May Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!