Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 'B'

Sunday October 25, 2009

Lord, that we might see.

I was searching for a book on Christian spirituality. I needed it for a discussion group which I was to facilitate on the following Wednesday. I knew the book was in my personal library and I was certain the title was printed on the cover in white letters on a blue-green field. I searched every bookshelf without success. The more I searched, the more frustrated I became and less trustful of my memory. I began to “second-guess” myself. Perhaps I had loaned the book to someone. I became annoyed at myself for giving the book to someone without replacing it with the usual i.d. card on the bookshelf so that I would know from whom I might need to retrieve it if necessary. I failed to locate it in time for the meeting. Ugh! Can you sense the mood I was in? It was a great way to begin a faith-sharing session on contemplative prayer — and don’t ask me if I prayed to St. Anthony, patron of lost articles. I didn’t but I did ask someone else to pray!

Would you believe, St. Anthony located the book on the day after the meeting! It was exactly where I put it — next to book in the same category so that I could locate it with ease by association. The color of the cover was white, not blue-green. I know there is an explanation for short-term memory loss, but I can’t remember it. Eating several almonds a day is supposed to prevent memory loss but I can’t remember why.

This ‘homey’ anecdote is not a-typical of many life experiences. Of course, most of them deal with issues of greater concern than the location of a book. For example, I have real blind spots that sometimes make it difficult for me to the appreciate the better side of another’s personality. I may be more apt to judge authors or public speakers by their title or by the letters that follow their name rather than the quality of their character or their product. Biases can easily cloud my vision and blind me to the goodness that God has placed in other people whatever their status or title.

Steven Covey, author of Seven Habits for Effective Leaders, tells the story of his experience on a New York train on an otherwise quiet Sunday morning many years ago. People were sitting quietly reading the newspaper or just dozing. At a particular stop, a young man entered the train with his five children. The children started chasing one another becoming a genuine nuisance. It was all very irritating. So he spoke up and said, “Sir, your children are disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you might speak to them and control their behavior?” The man replied, “Oh, you’re right. I’m sorry. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

Through no fault of his own, Steven Covey was blind to the tragic event that had just occurred in their lives but it surely changed his attitude and his response to the situation. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” he said. “Can you tell me how I can help?”

There are dramatic stories about blind people who recovered their sight through surgery and the generosity of a donor and still more dramatic stories about people born blind but who received sight later in life through the hands of a skillful surgeon. Opening their eyes opened them to a completely new world. And then there is the ‘miracle’ of the Seeing Eye of Morristown that has brought ‘sight’ to millions through ‘man’s best friend’—the humble dog.

But nothing is more dramatic then a spiritual wakening such as that described in the Gospel for this Sunday. Even before Bartinaeus was cured of his blindness, he recognized Jesus as ’ Man of God,’ and Messiah. In fact, the story is not about physical blindness but about the miracle of faith. Jesus told him it was his spiritual vision that enabled him to see. “Your faith has made you whole!” It’s interesting that Mark draws a stark contrast between the faith of Bartimaeus and the blind ambition of the disciples.

There are many blindnesses to which we ‘believers’ can succumb, such as the chauvinism and sexism that still prevails in the marketplace and even in the Church, resulting in the treatment of women as inferior to or less qualified than men. Good people can suffer a
blindness to justice issuesthat distorts reality leading us to seek our own good over the good of another.

But there is yet another message in this story not immediately obvious to the casual reader. This was Jesus’ challenge to the Pharisees and especially to ‘the Twelve’ apostles who were blind to the deeper meaning of his message and miracles.

Bartimaeus, was willing to give Jesus everything, symbolized in casting off the garment of his former self. But the commitment to the stewardship of God’s word and God’s world demands intelligent engagement with this world and in our church through mutual and respectful dialogue.

And here’s one more insight from Julia Alvarez: “Those of us who are in solidarity to make this world a better place long for those tidal waves that poet Seamus Heaney talks about in this passage from The Cure at Troy:

‘History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.’

My prayer is that we will come to see our world and our church as God sees them. Lord, that we might see as you see.

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