Homily 10-28-2012 Bartimaeus and Us!
The very basic foundations of the life are presented before us in today's readings. Jeremiah reminds us of the Lord's restoration to Israel after they were captives in Babylon on account of their sins. Hebrews reminds us how important it is to have humility, especially as priests, since even Christ did not exalt Himself. However, I want to focus on the Gospel. Last week I spoke about how we should pray with Sacred Scripture, particularly through the ancient form of Lectio Divina. One of the best ways for making scripture prayerful is to follow the teaching of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits, and simply put ourselves in the story either as a bystander or as one of the characters. We see in the story of Bartimaeus a summary of our journey on earth, and this is perhaps why his story is remembered so vividly by the evangelist, Mark. And in this story, all of us are Bartimaeus. Here we see a fallen humanity left broken on the side of the road, unable to see and therefore incapable of moving forward, always stumbling along.
And into this sorrowful scene comes God Himself, God become man for us, a living image of the wholeness that our human nature was made for, the new Adam who will father a new people restored in Him. And the new Adam passes by the fallen, blind one, so close he is within reach, all that is required is a shout of faith! “Jesus, Son of David, Eleeyson me!” This same word which we cry three times at the beginning of Mass, modeling Bartimaeus' constant shouting even as other forces try to stifle him. What stifles our shouts to the Lord? The constant noise of a busy-body lifestyle; a sense of self-sufficiency and pride; our past sins which we feel are too grave to be forgiven; the allurements of wealth, success, worldly fame, or pleasure. Whatever they are, we all have them, and we all must name them for what they are: walls between us and Jesus whom we will miss if we don't shout through them. That is the first step of conversion – shouting out to God to be healed – and it can only be accomplished if we are humble enough to admit the fact that we are not whole, that we need help from God.
Then the Lord stops and summons the man, who is brought to Jesus with the help of the Church. As the man rises, he throws away his cloak and jumps to his feet, which symbolizes abandoning his former way of life. This is the second step of conversion – changing our ways and losing worldly things for higher gifts. Then through the help of the Church, Bartimaeus meets Jesus, expresses is deepest desires to Him, and receives from Him the healing he needs. Fallen humanity is restored into the image of the Redeemer; the son of the flesh made from clay is now changed into an adopted child of God born-again from water and the spirit.
And since he has encountered the fullness of truth in Christ, he can now see the truth of the both this life and the next. And even as the New Adam tells him, “Go on your way,” this new child of God can do nothing but follow Christ, saying through his deeds, “Lord, having been restored into Your image, my way is now your way.” This is the third step of conversion, and it takes our entire life to affirm it. Following Jesus all of our days, moving right into our crosses and embracing them in the faith of the Lord's Resurrection.