1Mc 1:10-15,41-43,54-57,62,63; Ps 119:53,61,134,150,155,158; Lk 18:35-43
Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil may conjure up a vision of monkeys, but this is no way to live. We need to hear and see the evil around us if we intend to never buy into that evil and end up speaking the lie everyone else has identified as the truth. Indignation should seize our hearts when people forsake the law of the Lord. If we are not indignant, then we are compromised. When the snares of the wicked are twined about us, it is then that we must not forget the law of the Lord. Our constant prayer must become, “redeem me from the oppression of men, that I may keep your precepts.” We need to be rescued from the constant bombardment of the lie and of the liars. We need to be free from the oppression of the lie in order to keep the law of the Lord. When our minds and hearts are filled with the words and assumptions of the wicked, we have no room for the truth. Indeed, malicious persecutors, who are far from the law, attack us randomly and recklessly only to provoke terror. These sinners are far from salvation because they seek not the ways of the Lord. Those who abandon the way, the truth, and the life join with the wicked and alienate themselves from us because they are not faithful to their promises. This harsh language from Psalm 119 reflects the struggle of our ancestors in the book of First Maccabees. The Hellenistic domination of world culture at that time blinded many Israelites to the dangers of compromise and so-called “peaceful co-existence”. The Lord Jesus meets a blind man on the road to Jericho. At least this non-Israelite knew he was blind and asked, “Lord, please let me see.” Perhaps this must be our prayer as we encounter the idols and lies of our so-called “tolerant society”.
Not long before the birth of the Lord Jesus the Maccabees fought and won independence from the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty. This courageous family organized a national Jewish movement that sought to be faithful to the covenant with the Lord. Some of their own countrymen had been seduced by the Greek culture and religion; these apostates were used by the pagans to force the Jewish people into total submission. This domination by the Greeks would have destroyed the religious identity of the Jewish people. These converts to Hellenism tried to convert their brothers and sisters to the ways of the King. They convinced some Jews to cover over the mark of their circumcision and to abandon the law of the Lord. Finally, the king erected the horrible abomination upon the altar of burnt offerings in the Temple, and in the surrounding cities of Judah they built pagan altars. The Temple of the Lord was defiled and the People of the Lord were given over to pagan rituals and practices. Things were so bad in Israel that if you were found with a scroll of the law you were subject to capital punishment. It was at this point of utter humiliation and seeming defeat that the spirit of the Maccabees was aroused. These brothers and their families preferred to die rather than defile themselves with the customs and religion of their oppressor. Many did make the ultimate sacrifice, and others raised an army to defend their faith and their identity. For years the rebellion continued; much blood was shed and the faith of the people inspired their sacrifice. These martyrs were on our Liturgical Calendar until 1969. Now they are remembered in our readings at Mass toward the end of Ordinary Time as we approach the season of new beginnings: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.
Why was the Lord Jesus on his way to Jericho? Was he coming to visit the ruins of an ancient pagan city? Was he on his way to preach to the citizens of Jericho as Jonah preached to the citizens of Nineveh? Saint Luke makes constant reference to the Lord Jesus as he makes that life-time journey to Jerusalem, that life-giving journey to the placed of his total self-sacrifice. On the way, just before he reaches Jericho, the Lord Jesus passes by a blind beggar. What else could a blind man do? This blind man was no mute. He shouted out the prayer of his deepest heart, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” This pagan, blind, beggar knew who this was who passed by him on the road. He knew that Jesus is the Son of David; he knew that this man was the long awaited fulfillment of the promise to King David. It was his faith in the Lord’s promise that gave him the confidence to stand up to the pressure of the crowd who kept rebuking him and telling him to be silent. The crowd took no notice of the blind beggar; he was just another pagan beggar along side the road. The Lord Jesus however did pay him attention and heard in his shout the truth of his identity being recognized by one who should have ignored him. Why would this Jewish Messiah pay any attention to him? The Lord Jesus gives sight to the blind beggar and from that moment on he ceased to be a beggar; he followed The One who gave him sight. The irony here is that this blind man saw the true identity of the Lord Jesus something, about which the sighted crowd was blind. “When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.” Perhaps our apostates and the pagans of our day will join in the praise of God when they see that we are no longer blind beggars. We, too, must be secure enough to admit that we are blind and that we need sight to recognize whom the Lord Jesus really is for us and for the peoples of every tribe, family and nation. The Lord Jesus is the Son of David, the true and eternal King for whom we long with the deepest longing.