Those Who Know Their Need Shout All the Louder

The beginning, middle, and end of salvation is the knowledge of our need. Acknowledge of illness is the beginning, middle, and end of healing and wellness. So complain that after conversion the use of “sinner language” is needlessly negative and opt for what they call “positive confession.” I disagree. The danger of positivism is falling into the trap of failing to acknowledge our unceasing need for the Savior.

Let us cry (shout) out all the more “…have mercy on me a sinner!” What could be more hopeful and positive?!

16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:16-17 – RSV)
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46 And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimae′us, a blind beggar, the son of Timae′us, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; rise, he is calling you.”50 And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Master, let me receive my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:46-52 – RSV)

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If anyone recognizes the darkness of his blindness… let him cry with his whole mind, let him say: “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” But let us hear what happened when the blind man was crying out: “And the people ahead rebuked him, that he should be silent” (Lk 18,39). What is meant by ‘the people ahead’ as Jesus comes if not the crowds of bodily desires and the uproar caused by our vices? Before Jesus comes into our hearts they disturb our thoughts by tempting us, and they thoroughly muddle the words in our hearts as we pray. We often wish to be converted to the Lord when we have committed some wrong. When we try to pray earnestly against the wrongs we have committed, images of our sins come into our hearts. They obscure our inner vision, they disturb our minds and overwhelm the sound of our petition…

But let us hear what the blind man, still unenlightened, did. “But he cried out all the more: ‘Son of David, have mercy on me’”… In proportion to the tumult of our unspiritual thoughts must be our eagerness to persist in prayer… It is surely necessary that the more harshly our heart’s voice is repressed, the more firmly it must persist to overcome the uproar of forbidden thoughts and break in on our Lord’s gracious ears by its intrepid perseverance. I believe that everyone observes what I am saying in himself, and herself. When we turn our minds from this world to God, when we are converted to the work of prayer, what we once enjoyed doing we later endure in our prayer as demanding and burdensome. Holy desire only with difficulty banishes the recollection of them from our hearts… But when we persist ardently in our prayer, we fix Jesus to our hearts as he passes by. Hence: “But Jesus stopped and ordered him to be brought to him” (v.40).
Saint Gregory the Great (c.540-604), Homilies on the Gospel

As Don Schwager asks in his reflection on this passage: “Do you recognize your need for God’s healing grace and do you seek Jesus out, like Bartimaeus, with persistent faith and trust in his goodness and mercy? ‘Lord Jesus, may I never fail to recognize my need for your grace. Help me to take advantage of the opportunities you give me to seek your presence daily and to listen attentively to your word.'”

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