Sunday Sermon for October 28, 2018, the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary time, Year B
Readings: Jer 31:7-9; Heb 5:1-6; Mk 10:46-52
In the Gospel reading today we hear about the blind man, Bartimaeus, who was sitting along the side of the road as Jesus was walking by. Hearing that it was Jesus, the blind man began calling out to the Lord and begging for mercy. The people around him began rebuking Bartimaeus and telling him to be silent. Jesus, on the other hand, stopped, called Bartimaeus to Himself, and healed him.
This scenario is similar to one many people experience today. Certainly, throughout time this has been the pattern for many, but today it has become far more common. With our society so opposed to Jesus, if a young person, or anyone for that matter, desires to draw near to Jesus, the people around the person belittle him, put down his faith, or otherwise try to change his mind. Pressure is often levied against someone who begins to forsake the ways of the world and follow Jesus.
For those who want to pursue a vocation to the Priesthood or Consecrated Life, this has been a problem in the Church for several decades. They have to withstand all the efforts by parents, friends, and co-workers, who try to dissuade the person from entering a convent or monastery. In a time when most young people have never seen a nun or a monk it is fascinating to see the movement of the Holy Spirit touching their hearts and inspiring them to consider Religious Life.
We are now dealing with a similar problem in the Church, one which I never thought I would see. These days, it tends to be the reverse of what I mentioned about young people who consider a Religious vocation. The current problem has to do with marriage. Now it is the parents who want their children to enter into a Sacramental marriage, but the young people today seem to want nothing to do with marriage. If they do choose to be married, they often do not know marriage is something holy – or a vocation!
In the latter case, parents seek to have their children draw near to Jesus; in the former cases, it is just the opposite. Regardless of the circumstances, the problem tends to be the same: drawing near to Jesus is not acceptable. Even for those in the Church, seeking greater holiness or deeper prayer is still scoffed at by many Catholics.
Thankfully, as St. Paul points out in the second reading, we have a High Priest who is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and the erring. Having taken our nature to Himself, Jesus knows our weaknesses. His compassion for us is so great that He offered Himself as the remedy for our sins. Although He never sinned, He was still willing to become sin and sacrifice Himself for our sake.
It is precisely our Lord’s priesthood and compassion that draws us to Himself. However, when Bartimaeus called out to Him, Jesus did not go to him; He required Bartimaeus to come to Him. Obviously, our Lord had already given Bartimaeus the grace to come to Him, even though he could not see. He gave him the grace to ask the Lord for healing. While our Lord healed the man’s blindness, I suspect the spiritual healing Bartimaeus experienced was far greater than the physical healing.
As we read in the first reading, God is gathering a remnant of His people. This group, Jeremiah tells us, includes the blind and the lame. Like Bartimaeus, we are perhaps more spiritually blind than we are visually impaired. Like the man Jesus healed when his friends lowered him through Peter’s roof, maybe we suffer from a spiritual paralysis which is greater than a physical infirmity.
We are among those Jesus is calling; we have sought Him and called out to Him for mercy, now He is calling us to Himself. But there is a test involved. The blind man had to demonstrate his resolve by getting up and making his way to our Lord. The rich young man also sought out our Lord, but he did not have the commitment necessary to follow Jesus. What about us?
Have we continued to call out to Jesus even when others ridicule us and try to silence us? Have we continued to seek Jesus at the expense of “friends” who walk away from us? Are we willing to do whatever He tells us to do? There were scary moments for the people who followed Jesus because their lives were changed forever. Ours will also be changed if we truly want to follow Jesus. The time is upon us; the din of the world attempts to drown out our cries for mercy, but Jesus hears us and calls us away from the crowd to Himself. “Take courage,” they said to Bartimaeus, “get up, Jesus is calling you.”
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.