Joan Chittister’s Parable of the Blind Fruit Seller

lityearchittisterBenedictine Catholic Sr. Joan Chittister has a new book out on the liturgical year in everyday life. I think this book describes daily sacramental living in a wonderful, down-to-earth way and doesn’t limit liturgical understanding to only those who come from “high church” traditions.

Chittister recounts a story told to her that gives a New York City twist on Mark 10:47. Enjoy!

It was a normal rush-hour day in a New York City airport. Commuters raced down concourses to make quick connections between major incoming flights and local helicopters or business jets that would take them from one small airport to another in time for supper. Men in heavy coats swinging heavy briefcases, and women in high heels loaded down with cumbersome shoulder bags skidded around vendors and carts, corners and counters in a mad rush to reach gates where the doors were already closing. There wouldn’t be another flight for at least an hour. They pushed and jostled, bumped and pounded their way through a jumble of people dashing down the same corridor but in the opposite direction.

Suddenly, everyone heard the crash. The fruit stand teetered for a moment and then tilted the fruit baskets off the countertop to the floor. Apples and oranges rolled helter-skelter up and down the concourse. Then the girl behind the counter burst into tears, fell to her knees, and began to sweep her hands across the floor, searching for the fruit. “What am I going to do?” she cried. “It’s all ruined. It’s all bruised. I can’t sell this!” One man, seeing her distress as he ran by, stopped and came back. “Go on,” he called to the others still running ahead of him down the corridor. “I’ll catch you later.”

Seeing how frantic she was, he got down on the floor with the girl and began putting apples and oranges back into baskets. And it was then, as he watched her sweep the space with her hands, randomly, frantically, that he realized that she was blind. “They’re all ruined,” she kept saying.

The man took forty dollars out of his wallet, pressed it into her hand. “Here,” he said as he prepared to go, “here is forty dollars to pay for the damage we’ve done.” The girl straightened up. She began to grope the air, looking for him now. “Mister,” the bewildered blind girl called out to him, “Mister, wait . . .” He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes. “Mister,” she said, “are you Jesus?”

For those of us who live in the rhythm of the liturgy week upon week all our lives, the question must be, so what? What has happened to us as a result? Who have we become? Who are we on all the rest of the weekdays of our lives?

Indeed there is in this story of a blind fruit seller the echo of a Gospel story about a blind beggar. Those who have been immersed in the liturgical year all their lives would well be the kind of people who would stop to help pick up apples and oranges in the midst of an agenda that could seem so much bigger than those things at any given moment. “Jesus, Son of David,” the blind Bartimaeus cried out as Jesus came down the dusty road, “have mercy on me.” (Mark 10:47)

The liturgical year sets out to form us in the spirit of the One who stopped and listened and gave new sight to the beggar’s eyes just as the salesman in the story gave insight as well as money to the blind fruit seller. Are you Jesus? people ask us silently every day. And the answer liturgical spirituality forms in us if we live it with constancy, with regularity, with fidelity, is surely, yes.-– Joan Chittister, OSB

From The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister

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