Sunday Sermon for October 25, 2015, the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Jer 31:7-9; Heb 5:1-6; Mk 10:42-56
In the first reading today we hear the Prophet Jeremiah proclaim that the Lord has delivered His people. In this context it implies the deliverance of the people from their exile and the return of the people of Israel to their own land. They were freed from slavery and were allowed to live, once again, as God’s own Chosen People. More than being freed from slavery on a natural level, the freedom to worship and serve the Lord is the far greater freedom granted to these people.
There are so many people today who have given into the worldliness and the sinfulness that caused the people of Israel to be exiled. When this happens, we trade in our dignity as children of God to take on the drudgery of a slave. The slavery in this sense is a slavery to sin and, ultimately, a slavery to the evil one.
Our redemption from this slavery, like the deliverance of the people of Israel, came through an act of God Himself. Unfortunately, like the people in today’s Gospel, we are blind to the gift which God has bestowed upon us. I need to make clear that I am not speaking here of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, but rather, of the other people who were around Bartimaeus.
I say this because Bartimaeus had great insight, even though he lacked the ability to see with his eyes. He recognized Jesus as the Son of David, that is, as the Messiah. He called out for mercy while the others tried to silence him. So, he was physically blind, but the others were spiritually blind.
All too often, when we give ourselves over to a life of selfishness and pleasure, it is because we have failed to see with the eyes of the soul. We do not see the harm that our sins cause us, we do not see the long term effects of our sinful ways, and we do not see the importance of a spiritual life, thinking that what is pleasing to the senses is where we will find fulfillment.
We have to learn from Bartimaeus who called out to the Lord to have mercy. We first have to recognize that Jesus is our only hope for deliverance from our self imposed slavery. We need to recognize that, by ourselves, we are helpless to overcome our own weaknesses. Even more, there is nothing we can do to earn or deserve mercy, grace, forgiveness or the love of God.
This is where the insight of St. Paul comes in when, in the second reading, he speaks of Jesus as our High Priest. His self gift on the Cross is our only hope for salvation. This is the means of deliverance from our slavery to Satan. The grace flowing from the Cross provides us with the means of deliverance from our own sinfulness.
I find it interesting that when speaking of the High Priesthood, St. Paul says that no one takes this honor upon himself, but only when called, as Aaron was. He goes on to show that Jesus was also called by God to be our High Priest. But if we take those same words and apply them in a different way, we find that the name Bartimaeus means “son of honor” or Timaeus can simply mean “honorable one.” It is this blind man who has the honor to call to Jesus and beg for mercy.
Each one of us has been given the honor and the privilege to be a member of Jesus Christ and to become a son or daughter of God. We have been called by God to live according to the freedom of the children of God. As we saw regarding the High Priest, so we can say of ourselves, that no one takes the honor of being a child of God upon himself, but only when called by God.
This means that each of us has become a “Bartimaeus,” a son or daughter of honor. It also means that we need to shed the blindness that is caused by sin and work toward the spiritual insight that comes only from a life of prayer and seeking union with God. This is the height to which each of us has been called; it is a great honor, but it is also a great responsibility.
When we consider the cost of our deliverance and the gift of freedom that has been given to us, we need to be very careful that we neither take these for granted or, even worse, squander them. We need to have the insight to recognize the privilege that is ours to be called by God and we have to cooperate with the grace and the mercy of God to live according to our freedom as the children of God.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.