Monday, 26 October 2015

A Homily for TRINITY 21 (OT 30B) St Thomas More, Toronto

“What do you want me to do for you?

Today’s Gospel is built around an irony – a blind man, Bartimaeus, becomes the first person apart from the apostles to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Also, the healing of Baritmaeus is the last miracle Jesus performs before entering the holy city of Jerusalem for His last week on earth.

Over the last few Sundays, the readings at Mass have explored the theme of  powerlessness: the young rich man not finding the strength to follow Jesus and so leaving in despair; how can the rich find salvation? A camel going through the eye of the needle is easier. The high standards set for us for marriage challenge all of us. We tend to be left saying: Who can do this?  We are powerless!

The scene on the road to Jerusalem evokes the joyful procession prophesied by Jeremiah in today’s First Reading. In Jesus this prophecy is fulfilled. God, through the Messiah, is delivering His people from exile and bringing them back from the ends of the earth along with the blind and lame in their midst. God is doing this not the people, not us.

Jesus, as Bartimaeus proclaims, is the long-awaited Son promised to David (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 11:9). Upon the triumphal arrival in Jerusalem, all will see that the everlasting kingdom promised to King David has come (Mark 11:9-10).

We hear in today’s Epistle, the Son of David was expected to be the Son of God (Psalm 2:7). He was to be a priest-king in the order of  Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4), who offered bread and wine to God Most High at the dawn of human history (Genesis 14:18-20).

Bartimaeus is a symbol of his people – captive Zion of which we sing of in today’s Psalm: Restore our fortunes, O Lord, as the rivers of the South. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

God  has done great things for Bartimaeus. All his life to this point has been sown in tears and weeping. Now, he reaps a new life.

Bartimaeus, is also a sign for us. How often Christ passes us by in the people and circumstances of our lives, perhaps in the distressing guise of a troubled family member or a burdensome co-worker (Matthew 25:31-46) and yet we don’t see the Lord.

Jesus calls to us through the Catholic Church, just as Jesus sent His apostles to call Bartimaeus. Yet how often in private and public do we listen instead to the voices of the crowd, looking for a secular messiah and not hearing the words of His Church, words of healing and of respect for life.

The blindness of Bartimaeus, the exile of the Jews from their homeland, our own frailty and illnesses, whatever trouble we might be in, may, in fact, be impossible for us — but not for God. And the wonderful thing is that God accomplishes what we cannot as his gift, out of his grace. Scripture boldly calls to us “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”

Bartimaeus did not earn his healing. Scripture doesn’t say he followed Jesus, worked on his life, built up merit, and then was healed. He followed Jesus after he was healed. The good news is that God loves first and moves first. He called Israel, he called Bartimaeus, he calls you and me. That is why the Collect or opening prayer of this Mass, prays that God will move first in making love, hope, and charity possible for us—so that those gifts which come from God can merit what God promises.

Often healing comes, not instantly, but at the moment it is meant to. It was so for the Jews who heard their promise from Jeremiah in today’s first reading—and they received that promise, they were brought home after a terrible exile, they did sing with joy—but not right away. They had to trust and wait for God’s good time for his purpose.

Sometimes, prayers that seem unanswered are, in the end, answered in entirely unexpected ways. Some people pass through a difficult time, seemingly with no answer to prayer, only to say that, later, they received extraordinary graces that they could not have imagined on the other side of their problem, so that, now, they even bless that difficult time

Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that the cup would pass—that he would be delivered from the pain of what was to come. He wasn’t spared—the cup of suffering did not pass him but God the Father made that awful suffering into a the glory of our salvation. 

Jesus entered his glory through suffering, and made a path for so that now we bless the day of Christ’s suffering as Good Friday.

Jesus asks us what He asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?  Rejoicing, let us say, in the Spirit,  what can we do in response to what God has done for us?

Jeremiah 31:7-9     Psalm 126:1-6    Hebrews 5:1-6   Mark 10:46-52

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