30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
Before I begin, let me congratulate all of you for the courage it took for each of you to come here today. That’s right. It took courage for you to show up here this morning. You wanna know why? Well, it’s not just because you have to listen to me give the homily! Let’s put it this way. I’m sure you know a lot of people who refuse to come to church on Sundays and many who refuse even to pray. And while some might be more upfront about their reasons than others, the underlying reason that many people don’t come to church or pray is that they’re afraid. Yes. They’re afraid that God might ask them to change their lives.
But we are here today precisely because we want God to change our lives. Jesus calls each and every one of us to become his disciples and it takes courage to say “Yes Lord, here I am. Do what you want with me - I’m yours.” But even the courage we have comes from God. It’s one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We don’t do any of this on our own except to give God the “Yes” he needs to to begin changing our stony hearts to natural hearts. Like Mary at the Annunciation, God calls, we respond with our “Yes,” and God takes care of the rest. But that means letting go of our own attempts to make things the way wewant them; our own vain attempts to put ourselves at the center of things instead of putting ourselves at the service of others.
We begin that journey by coming humbly before the Lord and admitting our sinfulness. That’s the first step and some are unwilling to do that. We begin every Mass like that, though: I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault... Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. It reminds me of the blind beggar in today’s Gospel who says: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.”
And then something interesting happened. Does anybody remember last week’s Gospel? Jesus says the same thing in last Sunday’s Gospel as he says in this week’s Gospel: “What do you want me to do for you?” Last week he said it to James and John who were looking for personal gain and glory apart from dependence on God. This week, Bartimaeus puts himself totally in the hands of Jesus and Jesus says that his “faith has saved him.” And he is cured of his blindness as well. Bartimaeus has won the place in the kingdom that the Apostles James and John, last week, had so earnestly wanted. (Of course they eventually came to see the light as well.)
Jesus had explained it all very clearly at The Sermon on the Mount: ‘Blessed are the poor in Spirit for the Kingdom of God is theirs.” Many people think being poor in spirit has something to do with material poverty. Of not having enough. But being poor in spirit really means knowing that we ourselves are not enough and acknowledging our dependence on God. That’s what Bartimaeus had, that poverty of spirit that says I need you God.
Likewise, we come here week after week to ask God to relieve us of our blindness. Our blindness to the suffering of others, our blindness to our own sinfulness. Our blindness to those times when God’s kingdom breaks into this fallen world of ours and we fail to recognize or acknowledge it.
We come here looking for the light of Jesus Christ to take away our blindness. Then, like the ex-blind man, Bartimaeus, we follow Jesus on his way, sharing the light we’ve received with others. We’re kind of like those glow-in-the-dark watches or the toys that the kids buy that glow-in-the-dark. By exposing ourselves to the light, we become filled with that light and carry it out into the world when we leave here. At least that what we’re supposed to do. That’s why we say at the end of Mass: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
And also like the phosphorus paint on watches and the like, we need to recharge ourselves with the Light of Christ. We do that when we pray, so we should pray often and always; here at Mass when we hear the Word of God proclaimed and receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist and when we take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconcilliation. These are the things that remove our blindness and enables us to become the kind of disciples Christ truly calls us to be.
You know, I’ll say it again, the Light of Christ that we receive here is meant to be taken out and shared with others. We can’t keep coming back and saying: “Jesus, shed you light upon me” over and over again week after week without taking it out into the world. We’ll never be satisfied unless we give it away.
Its like the beggar in the movie “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.” Brian and his mother are walking through town and get hit up by a beggar. “Alms for an ex-leper. Alms for an ex-leper, please.” And Brian says: “What do you mean an ex-leper?” And the leper says: “Well I was cured” “Who cured you?” Brian says. And the leper says: “That Jesus fellow.” He says: “Now I have a hard time making a living, all I’ve ever known how to do is beg.” And Brian says: “Well why don’t you go back and ask him to make you a leper again?” And the leper says: “Well, I might not like that. Maybe he could just make me a leper during working hours or something.”
So Brian just sighs, drops a coin into his cup and walks away. And the ex-leper looks into his cup and says: “A half a dinari! Look at this - he only gives me a half a dinari!” And Brian says: “Some people are never satisfied.” To which the leper replies: “That’s just what Jesus said!”
We can’t be like the leper. when Jesus says to us: “What do you want me to do for you?”, he’s saying what do you need to follow me along the way, to become my disciple. We can’t come back week after week with a different excuse, a different need, and then we can follow him along the way. Always mañana.
We come here looking to change our lives. We can’t be like that leper. We can’t be afraid to change. We have to substitute the light of Christ for our blindness, and then share that light with others. We will never be satisfied, we will never find Jesus here in this building, until we lose our blindness and start to see Jesus out there. Then Jesus Christ will truly be for us the way, the truth, and the life.