Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
For the past two years, physical movement from one place to another has been severely limited. We continue to hear about the pandemic: social distancing, Hot spots, circuit breakers, not to mention the ‘rising price of gas’ has discouraged or limited our travel or movement. And yet, for one reason or another, many people are still on the move. People need to work, kids need to go to school… life has to go on.
In today’s Gospel, we have the beautiful story of Bartimeaus, the blind beggar who has an encounter with Jesus. When I read this passage last Monday, what struck me, right away, was that everyone in this gospel was “moving” everyone except for Bartimaeus, who is blind and sitting by the roadside begging. Jesus and companions are making their way to Jerusalem where Jesus will be crucified.
As they journey through Jericho, Bartimeaus is shouting at Jesus from his ‘safe place’… a place that assures him of an income… no matter how limited it may be. What is he shouting? “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me…” “Kyrie Eleison”. All of a sudden Jesus stops! Movement of the group ceases… except for Bartimeaus. Things have changed! Jesus calls for him and the people who were moving with Jesus says to Bartimeaus, get up, he is call you. And a short dialogue occurs between these two men. “what do you want,?” Jesus asks. “My teacher,” responds Bartimeaus, “Let me see… again.” Something had blinded Bartimeaus. Was it an accident? Was it some sort of disease of the eye? Macular Degenerative, Glaucoma, Cataracts, Diabetes? Was it hereditary? We are not told why Bartimeaus was blind but we are told that because of his blindness, he couldn’t follow Jesus or journey with the others.
What about us and our blindness… yes… our blindness… because we all have it. We may be blinded by beauty; blinded to the truth, blinded by desperation, blinded by ignorance, blinded by fear, especially fear of the unknown… fear of change. Do we let this blindness stall us? Do we fail to move forward because of our blindness and miss opportunities that avail themselves to us?
For the last few weeks, I have been looking for something practical and easy to understand to put in our bulletin regarding our Synod. In all the lofty material I read about this important event in our church history, I finally found a great explanation in the person of Nelson Perez… Archbishop of Philadelphia. I typed out his homily and placed it in our bulletin as an insert. A synodis walking on the same road and walking together… with Jesus who always encounters us first, listens and helps us discern. Therefore a synod is a process of dialogue with Jesus just as Jesus encounters Bartimeaus in Jericho, and calls him. They enter into dialogue: “what do you want?” Bartimeaus says, “I want to see again…” Both Jesus and Bartimaeus are listening to each other… healing is given and process of discernment happens: Bartimaeus follows Jesus on the way.” All within a short conversation.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis is trying to move all of us on the journey with Jesus. That is why he is having this synod. Even though we are in the midst of a pandemic, Francis realizes that we need to become the church that we are called to be. We need to move from our ‘place of safety, throw off our cloaks of the known’ and truly enter into the ministry of the new or unknown… just as Bartimaeus did.
Many of us have been like Bartimeaus, yelling from the sidelines, or our comfort zones for changes in our church, not only to keep up with society, but be a leader again… leadership that includes all the baptized… not just the hierarchy. Like Jesus with Bartimeaus, we need to meet people where they are: encounter. Then we need to listen… not speak… not tell… not to quote church law or Scripture… but to listen… with the heart… not the head. Only then can we discern together… challenging, and helping one another with our own blindness on the journey on the way.
But we need to be aware of our own blindness, of our inability to recognize Jesus who is always on the road with us. May we never be blinded to the many opportunities to be his presence, his hands, his feet and his eyes to those around us as we continue to journey to Jerusalem which is eternal life with God. Amen.