VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said Wednesday that we must listen to the cries of the poor and needy, resisting the temptation to close our hearts because we are “bothered” by their constant pleas for help.
Reflecting on the miracle in Chapter 18 of Luke’s Gospel, in which Jesus heals a blind man who cries out to him on the side of the road, Francis noted how the man had “a strong voice,” but the people around “rebuke him to keep quiet, as if he didn’t have the right to speak.”
“They don’t have compassion on him, but, rather, they are bothered by his cries,” the Pope said, asking: “How many times do we, when we see so many people in the street, needy people, sick and with nothing to eat, feel bothered?”
“How many times do we, when we find ourselves before so many refugees and migrants, feel bothered?” he asked, sayings this is a temptation everyone has, “even me — all of us.”
Francis said the word of God can serve as a good teacher in this sense, because the hostility and indifference of the crowd “render one blind and deaf” to their brother, unable to recognize the face of God in him.
This indifference and hostility can also become aggression, even to the point of throwing out insults, he said.
When we hear people talk about poor people and migrants, saying, “Throw them out; put them in another place” — this, Francis noted, “is aggression. This is what the people did to the blind man when he cried out.”
Pope Francis spoke to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his June 15 general audience. He continued his catechesis on mercy, looking to Jesus’ miracles as a source of his merciful love.
In his speech, the Pope said the blind man in the parable represents the many who are marginalized today due to a physical disability or a variety of other reasons.
Although many crowds pass by, the man is alone, he noted, explaining that the image of the outcast “is sad,” especially since he is in Jericho, the “lush oasis” where the Israelites gathered after the Exodus from Egypt.
Francis recalled Moses’ words to the people on that occasion: “If there is among you a poor man, one of your brethren, in any of your towns within your land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother.”
Moses’ instruction is a “stark contrast” from the attitude described in the Gospel, the Pope observed. However, the blind man wasn’t intimidated by the crowd, but cried out louder, recognizing Jesus as the “Son of David” and the awaited Messiah.
“Contrary to the crowd, this blind man sees with the eyes of faith. Thanks to this, his plea has a powerful effect,” Pope Francis said, noting how Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him.
In doing so, Jesus takes the man from the margins and puts him at the center of attention, the Pope said. He encouraged pilgrims to think about how, in a moment of sin or a bad situation, “it was Jesus who took us by the hand and brought us from the margin to the path of salvation.”
When the Lord passes by the man, it’s “an encounter of mercy,” he said, explaining that “Jesus also passes in our lives,” and when he does, “it’s an invitation to draw near to him, to be better, to be a better Christian, to follow Jesus.”
Jesus, in asking the man, “What do you want me to do for you?” becomes the “humble servant” of a sinful man, the Pope said, noting how, after receiving both healing and salvation from the Lord, the man becomes Jesus’ disciples and follows him.
“From a beggar to following Jesus: This is also our path,” he said, because “we are all beggars — all of us. We are always in need of salvation, and every day each of us must take this step.”
Pope Francis closed his speech by noting that, after the healing of the blind man, “a second miracle” takes place: The people around him see in a new way.
“The same light illuminates everyone” who had gathered to give praise to God, he said, adding that “Jesus pours out his mercy on everyone he meets: He calls them, draws them to himself, gathers them, heals them and enlightens them, creating a new people who celebrate the marvels of his merciful love.”
Francis said we must allow the same thing to happen to us: “We must allow ourselves to be called by Jesus, to be healed by Jesus, forgiven by Jesus and to follow behind him.”