October 19, 2015

Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 25, 2015, Year B

Fr. Butler is attending his order's Provincial Chapter meeting this week and will submit this Sunday's homily time permitting. Please pray for the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette as they deliberate their ministry and elect their Provincial leadership. Meanwhile, I submit to you Fr. Charles Irving's homily on spiritual blindness and the courage of Bartimaeus: 

Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to
do  for you?" The blind man replied to him,
"Master, I want to see." Mark 10:51
Fr. Charles Irvin

(Click here for today’s readings)

Back in the late 1700’s a man named John Newton, an alcoholic libertine and a man committed to destroy the Christian faith, was by the grace of God, rescued, restored, healed, and given the sight to see what he was and what God wanted him to be. He wrote a hymn with words you will recognize:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was not, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.
That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
We could spend the rest of this day discussing the various types and forms of blindness along with answering the question “Who is really blind, and who really sees?”

From my perspective, the most debilitating form of blindness is that found in folks who think they see the truth when they really don’t. There’s no more pitiable form of blindness than one who thinks he or she has all of the right answers, who thinks he or she knows all that one needs to know about God, about Jesus Christ, about the Church, and about religion…but really doesn’t.

Moreover, in these days there is a prevailing philosophy that claims there is no reality worth  relying upon or acting upon, other than that which one perceives in one’s self; there is no truth one can rely upon other than that which one understands to be the truth in his or her own mind. This is the vision of the Imperial Self – an ego that self-defines reality, morality, truth and the only things it considers that really matter.

The stark reality of the Imperial Self is no more clearly revealed than when you encounter an alcoholic, a drug addict, or one who is mentally deranged. There is no arrogance, no self-centered defiance greater than that found in a raging alcoholic or drug addict. What you see in such a person is a soul raging in hell’s inferno.

To a lesser degree we all know, and personally know, what it means to have one-dimensional vision. By that I mean the sort of narrow way we see others. Perhaps we see only how their bodies look. Or maybe we judge them solely on the basis of their level of intelligence. Again, some judge and see others on the basis of their net worth, or their fame, or their acting talents, or their ability to entertain others. I have no doubt that we have, each one of us here, seen and judged others only with a one-dimensional vision.

As in so many other stories and parables that come to us in the gospels, we need to see ourselves in the various characters. Today we need to see ourselves in the character of Bartimaeus.

In today’s gospel account we find Jesus at the threshold of Jerusalem. He was about to climb on a donkey and ride into Jerusalem, an event we celebrate every Palm Sunday. Bar-Timaeus, the son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting begging along the way. We don’t know for how many years he as a beggar but evidently it was many because he was well known by the local citizens. He was regarded as a nobody, so much of a nobody that he wasn’t even called by his own name. He was known only as the son of a man by the name of Timaeus.

Bartimaeus had evidently heard about the miracle worker, Jesus of Nazareth, and here was Jesus entering into Jerusalem with the crowd shouting and singing hosannas, alleluias, and such. Amidst all of this din and commotion Bartimaeus shouts out to Jesus.

I want to draw four points out of today’s gospel account. The first and the most important point is that Bartimaeus knew he was blind. Do we? Do we know that we really don’t see reality as Jesus sees it, that we miss seeing the works and the hand of God in our lives, that we’re bedazzled and blinded by the glitz and glitter of this world, and that our souls are surrounded by a spiritual darkness, and that we often do not let the light of Christ illumine our way through that darkness? Do we realize we are blind when it comes to seeing ourselves as Jesus sees us?

The second observation I have is that those around Bartimaeus tried to hush him up and keep him from Jesus. It’s significant because that’s the situation in which we find ourselves today. There are a whole lot of voices and forces attempting to keep us from contacting and personally encountering Jesus Christ. If you don’t think so then you really are spiritually blind.

Bartimaeus took the courageous risk of going against the crowd. He didn’t let his hope be deterred by the local populace and the voices of those who tried to keep him down and in his place. Any faith response worthy of the name requires the same sort of risk. Bartimaeus is a true hero because he went against the crowd and in his darkness took the risk.

To read this homily in full go here.

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