30th Sunday of the Year St. Robert Bellarmine Church in Freehold October 25, 2015
In our Gospel from St. Mark our Lord Jesus and his apostles are traveling again with a large crowd following them. They are leaving Jericho, some claim the oldest inhabited city in the world. It was an agricultural center, with beautiful fruit and palm trees, and was a winter resort for the wealthy and powerful of Jerusalem. Early on it was a gift from Mark Anthony to Cleopatra. It then became the property of the Roman Empire and was given to King Herod to rule. This background provides a sense of the historical importance of Jericho in the ancient world and, therefore, a good place for Jesus to work a miracle.
Remember what our second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews said of Jesus: in his humanity, he was our representative before God to offer gifts and sacrifices for our sins. He was fully God but fully man. He understood human weakness from “within our skin” so to speak and dealt patiently with sinners as a result. Long before he walked this earth, however, it was predicted in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, the source of our first reading, that the Lord would gather the remnant of Israel, including the lame and the blind, mothers and their children, and make of them an immense throng. Jesus and his apostles accomplished that, didn’t they? Christ built his Church on the apostles, gathering to Himself “the lame, the blind, mothers and children” and all those on the margins of ancient society and we, as Catholic Christians, have inherited all that he preached and taught and did. That became the Church, an even more “immense throng” today.
In the Gospel this afternoon, Jesus meets a blind beggar who asks him to take pity on him. The beggar Bartimaeus had heard about Jesus and, despite the crowd's attempt to silence him, called out for Jesus. Acknowledging Bartimaeus' faith, Jesus works a miracle and restores his sight. St. Mark tells us Bartimaeus then "followed him."
Notice it was not the miracle that made him a believer. It was his belief in Jesus that resulted in the miracle. Jesus "restored his sight" saying "your faith has saved you." That is the lesson for us: faith saves, faith makes the difference, faith works miracles.
Notice a couple things. Though blind, Bartimeaus knew who Jesus was. Though blind, Bartimaeus didn't let anything stand in the way of his connecting with Jesus. Though blind, Bartmaeus expected Jesus would do something for him. Though blind, Bartimeus asked for something good, what he really needed. Through faith, Bartimeus gained his sight and wasn't simply satisfied with that: he became a disciple and followed him. How I would love to have been Bartimaeus! Can you imagine having the Lord Jesus say, “what would you have me to do for you?” What would you say?
The Bartimeus story has something to teach us. The world has known Jesus for 2000 years. We, as Catholics, have known him all our lives since our Baptism. As we have grown over the years, we have connected with Jesus: through our parents and family; through religious education; through the Sacraments; through our marriages; through the Church; through our faith. At the altar, we receive the very Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus. It is to the altar that we bring our joys, our sorrows, our needs, our prayers, the things that help us to face life in this world. From this altar we receive Christ and take him out those doors into our marriages, our families, our community, our workplace, our lives. The Eucharist helps us believe but our beliefs, our faith is what leads us to the Eucharist.
We may not be blind as Bartimaeus was but we have other things, other burdens to bear, other crosses to bear, other joys to celebrate, in other words, our life as it is. Our faith brings us to the Lord Jesus. We call out his name. Our faith enables to see Christ in our spouses, in our children. Our faith has made our married life different, better, fuller. Our faith saves us. Do we take his presence in our marriages for granted? Or do we decide to follow him and continue to ask his blessing for the years to come. “What would you have me do for you?” As you celebrate your years together with your spouse, perhaps your answer is simply … “more of one another.”