Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday word, 28 Oct 2012

Through a Lifetime
30th Sunday of the Year B (28 Oct 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Mark’s is the shortest gospel-portrait of Jesus. Its brevity prompts us to dismiss its details. One detail is this: Jesus’ disciples, including the apostles he called to follow him, were slow to grasp the identity of Jesus and slow to appreciate what Jesus taught. That detail describing the disciples, doesn’t it describe us, too? We’re not quicker than the disciples. We are like them even with our advantage of seeing the entire story of Jesus, something his disciples could not.

Today’s gospel selection reminds us that Mark remembered Jesus healed two blind men with different effects. The first blind man, unnamed, Jesus healed gradually. Mark recalled it this way:

Putting spittle on his eyes [Jesus] laid his hands on him and asked, “Do you see any-thing?” Looking up he replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” Then [Jesus] laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly. Then [Jesus] sent him home.1 

In today’s gospel Jesus healed Bartimaeus instantly:

Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him..., “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed [Jesus] on the way.

Details confuse people about Mark’s lesson then and now. Some people are stymied by Jesus’ gradual healing of the first blind man. Others miss that Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak. Still others forget many discouraged Bartimaeus, which surely is evidence enough that many were slow to grasp and get Jesus’ mission.

Both men and Jesus’ response to them are icons for us. The blindness of the first man was from no faith to faith. Jesus sent him home to protect and cultivate his faith until he was ready. Faith, in visual language, allowed him to see everything distinctly, which even the disciples could not do! Yet, new faith needs protection, and it needs to grow strong.

Bartimaeus had strong faith: the disciples’ could not quiet it in him. Jesus grasped his faith, and he recognized a new disciple, as we heard:

“Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately [Bartimaeus] received his sight and followed [Jesus] on the way.

We share significant features with Bartimaeus. Let me suggest three. We are named and our names have been sealed by baptism. Second, our baptism consecrated us on mission with Jesus: we follow Jesus on his way. We may put it like this: when we give ourselves to our baptism we make Jesus’ way our way. Three, our baptism gave us faith, and the eucharist sustains the faith our baptisms began.

We know from experience our faith gets shrouded. At times we allow it to be invisible. More often, whatever cloaks our faith doesn’t allow others to recognize our true features as Jesus’ contemporary disciples. Baptized into faith and faith sustained by the eucharist, we all have our cloaks to which we cling or which cling to us. We recognize Jesus heals us; his healing empowers us to live the pattern of his life when we throw aside our cloaks and live with faith’s freedom to replicate the pattern of Jesus’ dying and rising day to day. Dying and rising is how Jesus is our priest.

Baptism makes us sharers in the priesthood of Jesus. Some live it as lay people, some as ordained. Either way, to share his priesthood means to be icons of Jesus’ paschal mystery. We can’t escaping the fact that our High Priest was a suffering messiah, and to replicate his pattern of living, suffering, dying and rising is to learn Jesus through a lifetime.2

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Ask the Trinity to enlighten you and bless your vision.
  • Ask Bartimaeus to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: thank him for your faith; then
  • Ask Jesus to help you identify your cloak and give your strength to throw it aside for the freedom of faith to imitate the pattern of Jesus’ dying and rising.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It is both example and power: Jesus’ example of living freely and faithfully; and our power to do the same as we follow him on his way.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Mark 8.23-26.
  2. This is what the Greek of Hebrews 5.8 means: to learn is to suffer; to suffer for the sake of an education. This was a wisdom saying in the common domain of the Greek culture of the Mediterranean world into which Jesus was born: μαθειν, παθειν [MAh-thane, PAh-thane].
Wiki-images by Haffitt of Jesus healing Bartimaeus and by Joe Mabel of baptismal font are used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

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