Sunday, November 13, 2016


Homily for November 14th, 2016: Luke 18:35-43.

          “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks the blind beggar who has been calling out loudly, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” Having heard that Jesus would be coming to Jericho, the beggar had positioned himself on the road where he knew Jesus would pass. There would surely be a good crowd eager to see the famous rabbi from Nazareth. With any luck at all, the beggar expected to receive many gifts. Yet when Jesus asked him what he wanted, the beggar asked for something more important than money: “Lord, please let me see.” The words of that blind beggar changed the life of a man who has been for the last 21 years the leader of the Benedictine community here in St Louis: Abbot Thomas Frerking. Let me tell you his story, just as he related it to me.

Born into a Lutheran family, Thomas Frerking, like many young people today, gave up all religion in high school. Following graduation from Harvard, he went to Oxford University in England, on a Rhodes scholarship, to study philosophy. Reading Mark’s gospel one day, he came to the story about this blind beggar. We have just heard Luke’s version. “That’s me,” he thought. “I felt convicted of intellectual pride, and kept repeating: ‘Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I heard Jesus saying: ‘Call him over.’ So I went to Jesus – and he gave me a hard time. He asked me: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ I had to tell him: ‘Lord, I want to see.’ This happened several times over the next few days. I realized that the people around Jesus were Catholic Christians. I knew I must ask for instruction in the Catholic faith. But then I thought: ‘Oh no, I could never do that!’”

“That was in July 1969. In August I came home for a holiday in the Rocky Mountains with my parents. Looking up at a cloud one day, the decision was just given to me. When I got back to Oxford in September I called the Catholic chaplain. He did know me from Adam. Yet he was with me in 15 minutes. I was received into the Church the following Easter.”

Jesus continues to speak to us today. His words still have power to change lives.