“Begged” is the word that stands out in today’s readings. People brought a blind man to Jesus and begged the Lord to touch him.
How many of us have begged the Lord? Maybe we’ve said something like: Please, Jesus, help me… Please, Lord, hear my prayer… No doubt, many of us can relate to begging Jesus for healing, or begging him for help, or begging him for any number of miracles in our lives.
In our readings today, this Greek word for “begged” (parakaleó) can also mean in several other passages to comfort—such as “comfort [parakaleó] one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18) and “comfort [parakaleó] your hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:17). St. Paul also teaches that God “comforts [parakaleó] us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort [parakaleó] those who are in any affliction, with the comfort [paraklésis] with which we ourselves are comforted [parakaleó] by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Paul also transitions this word from comfort to beg when he teaches about dealing with people who offend us: “You should rather turn to forgive and comfort [parakaleó] him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg [parakaleó] you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:7-8).
Paul begs us to comfort.
And the people in today’s reading are doing just that. They too are begging, but they are not asking Jesus to comfort them as much as they are begging him to comfort the blind man. In a very real way, they are interceding for someone who is suffering. They are begging God to give comfort in the most just language, because as Pope Benedict XVI explains, “when God comforts, he satisfies the hunger for righteousness, he wipes away the tears of those who mourn, which means that, as well as compensating each one in a practical way, he opens the Kingdom of Heaven” (Benedict XVI, Angelus, 30 January 2011).
When we beg God for comfort, we must also remember to ask God to bring comfort to others who are suffering.