By Michael Fitzpatrick
A Reading from Luke 18:31-43
31 Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” 34But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
35 As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41”What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” 42Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” 43Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.
As a teenager I went on a mission trip to New Zealand, canvassing the northern isle, sharing Jesus with unsuspecting mall goers and inner city youth. At the end of each day, we’d share our tallies of people we had “successfully” evangelized. The top quota-filler would be selected for a public honor. I remember coveting that honor badly, and when I didn’t get it, feeling deeply hurt.
Back home, I shared this with my pastor. After listening quietly, he asked, “Michael, when you talked about your faith with the New Zealanders, what was your motivation? Was it to see God’s Kingdom come, or was it to be praised in the eyes of men?”
His words still cut me to this day. I thought I was seeking to open the eyes of others, and my own eyes were blind in pride. I didn’t want Jesus to save those people as much as I wanted me to save those people, and to be celebrated by my peers.
Contrast my teenage motivations with those of Jesus. He is traveling with a crowd on the road to Jericho when a blind beggar, among the most vulnerable in that society, cries out for him. Responding to the shout for “the Son of David,” Jesus heals the blind beggar simply because he asked. It was for the sake of that man’s salvation that Jesus showed such mercy. Jesus was not seeking fame, or adding to his tally of healings. When he finished, those who saw the miracle praised God for this mighty act of deliverance. This is what it means to act for the sake of God’s Kingdom. We can neither save others nor save ourselves. Only God in Christ can do that. Our role is to open ourselves to the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom, celebrating wherever God has victory in the lives of others, grateful for God’s victory in our own life.
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Diocese of São Paulo (Brazil), the Rt. Rev. Francisco Cézar Fernándes
Diocese of East Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Robert Skirving
Diocese of New Jersey, the Rt. Rev. William H. (Chip) Stokes