30th Sunday Ordinary Time & Feast of St. Narcissus – coincidence? Or…?

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St. Narcissus of Jerusalem is the patron saint who wards off insect bites. Hmmm. In our post-Freudian times, I turn to him as the patron of those of us who are egotistical, self-centered, and vain. Our numbers are legion.

On this Monday after the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, let’s take a moment to consider Jesus’ remedy for narcissism – the healing of the blind Bartimaeus.

On the surface, Jesus heals a guy who can’t see. So, we can romanticize this scene, seeing how nice Jesus is, how grateful Bart would be to see the fall colors. Ahhh.

Yet the meanings of “blind,” tuphlos, in the Greek Old Testament tell another story. Our kind of blindness involves self-inflation with its attendant idolatry – “I am not the clay. Assuredly, I am the potter!” Our lack of living justly and rightly has blinded our eyes; we do not see others clearly. Blind Bartimaeus is the perfect foil for the Twelve, who, as yet, Do. Not. See Jesus as the kind of Messiah they need. Kinda like me. Kinda like you, right?

Deuteronomy 28:15; 26-29            But if you will not obey the Lord your God by diligently observing all his commandments and decrees, which I am commanding you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you 26 Your corpses shall be food for every bird of the air and animal of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away. The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt, with ulcers, scurvy, and itch, of which you cannot be healed. The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness, and confusion of mind; you shall grope about at noon as blind people grope in darkness, but you shall be unable to find your way; and you shall be continually abused and robbed, without anyone to help.

Isaiah 59:9–11 (NRSV) — 9 Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us; we wait for light, and lo! there is darkness; and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. 10 We grope like the blind along a wall, groping like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among the vigorous as though we were dead. 11 We all growl like bears; like doves we moan mournfully. We wait for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us.

The Divine Physician makes things new for idolaters…

Isaiah 29:16f, 18f           You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay? Shall the thing made say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of the one who formed it, “He has no understanding”? On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.  The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

These typically Advent-type passages refer to the healing of idolaters. What would it be like for narcissists like us to really see ourselves and one another? Perhaps we wouldn’t be “shooting the arses off our neighbors” verbally or otherwise. This way of looking at the following readings might open eyes to what God seeks to do for idolaters! And see how to give fitting thanks!

Psalm 146:5–8            Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.

Isaiah 35:3–6           Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;

Isaiah 42:5–7            … I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.

Isaiah 61:1–3            The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners [to give sight to the blind]; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn…

St. Narcissus, pray for us!

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