30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 24 October 2021, Bible Readings for Mass: I: Jeremiah 31: 7-9; Responsorial: Psalm 126; II: Hebrews 5: 1-6; Gospel: Mark 10: 46-52
The Gospel for this Sunday shares the account of a blind man, Bartimaeus, encountering Jesus and being healed of his blindness. This powerful account of God’s mercy and grace is framed within the other Scripture readings that emphasize the recognition God has for those who suffer, who are in need, who are unable to live as they, and their Creator, their Savior would long for them to live. These readings also share the often challenging reality that we are called to share this journeying together in our seeking for, in our need for knowing God in our hearts and in our midst.
The account of Bartimeaus and Jesus teaches, with clarity and power of how God would reach us in these holy, healing encounters. Bartimeaus was blind and as a result, he lived, barely, on the fringes of life in the Hebrew/Roman world of his time. He sustained his meager existence begging for whatever would be given that he may try to live. The world view at the time (Hebrew and Gentile) was that anyone so disabled was an outcast, a failure, and an example of how one should never experience their life. As a result, Bartimeaus and his kind were avoided and shunned, except for the small tokens of generosity that might be given. So it was as another day dawned for Bartimaeus.
There was a large crowd accompanying Jesus as He came down the road. Bartimaeus has clearly heard about Jesus. As Jesus approached he calls out to Him. “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimeaus did not know Jesus. He did not meet the growing criteria of being a true disciple of Christ. But he called out to Jesus from where he was, in heart, in life, and with limited knowledge. But, he called out to Jesus. Jesus’s disciples did not approve. There was no place for a man, from the fringes, in their group. They told him to be silent. But Bartimeaus persisted in faith, desperation, and need. And Jesus listened. He told His disciples to “Call him”! Bartimeaus came to Christ and God continued to…listen. Bartimeaus was healed of his blindness and commended for his faith, a faith that saw far beyond his circumstances and fears.
We are also called, today and in the times ahead to ALL be participants in the Synod of the Church. The subject of the Synod is met with great hope and excitement for many. But for some, it is met with deep fears and doubts. What is the SYNOD of the Church? As St. John Chrysostom said, “Synod and Church are synonymous”. It is, in simplest terms about the faithful journeying together in our growing and seeking to better know God, to share in our ongoing conversions and shared mission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ in words and deeds.
Much is being said and shared about the Synod. The flood of information in media (especially Catholic) and in social media forums is intense and diverse. Some is very positive and good. Some is rooted well in not just pundits but actual reference to the real teachings and documents the Church should be sharing. And, sadly some is intensely opposed seeing it as a peril to be rebuked. This brings us to remember and realize we owe our Pope and our Church the respect and courtesy to read, to listen with faithful hearts, to the actual message and mission being shared. To help accomplish this here is a link to the Vatican website where full documents and accurate information can be accessed.: https://www.synod.va/en.html
aThe Liturgy of God’s Word this Sunday shares the three key parts of this “journeying together” in Synodality. The shared call to Communion, Participation, and Mission is lived out between Jesus, His disciples, and blind Bartimeaus. Jesus could have, possibly in a far easier direct approach, healed Bartimeaus. Instead, He recognized the Communion, the common-union that is shared by us all of the need and opportunity to know God and His healing mercies. So He chose to include the disciples, He chooses to include us, in the journey together. And He brought them and us to better know and experience the needed graces of this journey that transcends time. There are numerous graces we are called to experience in which to grow for this holy quest. But our Gospel today shares one of special vitality: Listening. And Listening beyond our fears.
In the earthly times of Jesus, as in our times now people found it very hard to listen. Convictions were very strong. And often fears were even stronger. For good and faithful Jews to listen to or include those who were different was considered unwise, if not sinful in itself. Humanity on the fringes, the disabled, the outcasts, the unworthy were to be shunned and excluded. The encounter with Bartimeaus shows us this cruel reality. Sadly in the Church today that same dynamic is alive. Those on the fringes, those who do not worship or believe, precisely as we do, are to be avoided, at the very least. To actually listen and dialogue with those with whom we do not agree is considered simply… wrong. So the exclusion of Bartimeaus would have done. But, Jesus listened.
And so must we. Many issues divide, cripple, and blind us to the fullness of graces and mercies we ALL need. Like the disciples in our Gospel today we may choose to focus on the ugly blindess of the beggar by the road. Or we can choose to see with the eyes of our Savior and listen with the Holy Spirit to..each other and God working in our midst.
The Church in this 21st century faces many perils and problems of worldwide dimensions. The Covid pandemic, Climate Change, as well as intense issues within the Church such as liturgical practices and sexual sorrows tempt us to focus on the issues, begging alongside our shared road, instead of our Lord and His call to a shared Communion, Participation, and Mission. Perhaps we all would do well to share the cry of Bartimeaus, “Master I want to see! And we would do well to realize that the first person he would see was…Jesus.