Oct 27, 2012

30th Sunday: Saving Grace

Carl Bloch - Christ heals Bartimaeus
"Master, I want to see."
Jer 31: 7-9
Hb 5: 1-6
Mk 10: 46-52

We have all heard the expression and likely said it ourselves at times: “I got more than I bargained for.”  The meaning of that phrase would depend on the context in which it was spoken.  If your spouse says it to you, he/she might mean that in marrying you they found more to love and appreciate than they imagined.  Or, it might mean the opposite as well. You’re quite a handful.

We priests, in taking on a new assignment, might mean the parish is more difficult to manage than first expected.  Or, it could also mean that it has proven to be a really great experience with more than expected benefits. 

In making a financial investment or purchasing a large ticket item or even in a friendship, the investment or the person could prove to be more productive and enjoyable than expected or more disappointing.

Today’s Gospel is a beautiful story about a disabled blind man, Bartimaeus, who makes a simple request of Jesus: “Master, I want to see.” His request is reasonable.  But, indeed he received more than he bargained for – he received not only physical sight but even more, the vision of new faith in Jesus and a new way in which to live.

But, there is an interesting social component here.  Notice, the man cries out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me . . .” He obviously recognizes Jesus own position of honor as “son of David.” But, more on point is the word the blind man used, “pity.” Pity and mercy are synonymous and other translations use the word “mercy.” In ancient times it was felt the wealthy and fortunate owed a kind of favor to those who were poor. They were obliged to show mercy for their unfortunate condition.  

So, Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus whom he recognizes as rich in wisdom and power to pay his debt to him because he believes Jesus is able to offer such assistance. Bartimaeus obviously knew that Jesus could do something and likely he had heard of other healings Jesus performed so what does he have to lose by asking? He saw in Jesus a possibility beyond what might have seemed reasonable. He had faith that the impossible, his instant healing, might happen.   

In return, the man receives a new spiritual insight.  To “see” Jesus for who he is and though Our Lord invites him to “Go your way” after the healing, he does remind Bartimaeus that his faith in him is what gave him more than he bargained for: a new potential, a new perspective and a new opportunity.  So Bartimaeus, “followed him (Jesus) on the way.”

In the early days of Christianity, this new faith was referred to as “the way.” The power of our Christian faith is to be transformative.  In this healing story, the early Christians and still for us today, learn that to be a Christian is to follow Jesus in a new way. To change us in ways that we may receive mercy from God who essentially owes us nothing but is love itself.  By its very nature love wants to give; to offer itself to another so the love Jesus offers to the man is given in more abundance than Bartimaeus imagined. It is divine love and mercy.

Our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah paints the picture of this same saving God who will “gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst . . .” God, Jeremiah implies, has a plan to restore and renew and we, like Bartimaeus, are invited to walk in that plan by faith.

The faith expressed in Bartimaeus’, “I want to see” request is the plea of every one of us who want to take our faith seriously.  Our faith does have the power to transform our lives and the world around us, even the culture in which we live today. But do we truly see this possiblity?

This Year of Faith invites us to take a look at where we are walking – in his way or in our own version of that way? We may indeed be living a Christian life in our moral choices but how strong are we to defend that?  How much do we make use of what is offered to us?  Are we rather private and timid or do we have the strength of our convictions? There was nothing timid about Bartimaeus.

By the positive example of our lives we can image for the world a new direction in which to walk.  That faith in Christ and the higher moral values is the better way in which to live.  For a culture that dismisses moral absolutes in favor of individual choice we have a hill to climb for sure.  But, we are followers of Christ who leads the way before us. 

The Eucharist offer us the saving grace of faith.  As we are fed upon his Word and Body we grow in his grace if we approach this in faith and trust. We gather in the support and inspiration of our Christian family so we do not walk this way alone but with others.