30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. October 24th 2015.
Jer 31:7-9; Heb 5:1-6; Mk 10:46-52
Having eyes and heart for divine mercy
Bartimaeus begged Jesus in today’s Gospel for what he wanted most in life, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus gave him his sight and then told him to go his way, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Bartimaeus did not go his way but he “followed Jesus on the way.” The way of Jesus now became his own way. He received what he wanted most but chose to follow Jesus instead of going on his own way. Why? Maybe we can say that he had eyes for divine mercy i.e. he saw the mercy of God in everything.
Bartimaeus must have heard of Jesus curing another blind man in Mk 8:22-26. He must have longed for the moment that he too could meet Jesus in person. For him, the presence of Jesus in the crowd passing by right in front of him that day was a manifestation of divine mercy and hence his insistent prayer, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” He is not like those relatives of Jesus in Nazareth who demanded that Jesus do for them exactly as He had done for others in Capernaum. (Cf. Lk 4:23) Unlike Bartimaeus, Jesus’ relatives in Nazareth were disappointed because they did not recognize the mercy of God before them.
Secondly, Bartimaeus sees the mercy of God in the fact that Jesus stopped on His journey and offered him a personal invitation to come to Him, “Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” Bartimaeus does not give excuses why he cannot approach Jesus because of his blindness but he “threw aside his cloak, sprang up and came to Jesus.” Nothing can stop this blind man from responding to the invitations of divine mercy even if he has to stumble through the streets to get to Him.
Thirdly, Bartimaeus saw the mercy of God being offered to him through a crowd that had previously asked him to be quiet when he called out for Jesus. He did not doubt or question their words to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He does not let their past rebuke hinder his present response.
Fourthly, Bartimaeus did not doubt that Jesus could actually take a personal interest in him and his needs and ask him the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” With complete trust that Jesus could do for him more than anyone could ever do, he confidently reveals the deepest desire of his heart to Jesus without any fear of being disappointed, “Master, I want to see.” He was not disappointed.
Fifthly, Bartimaeus, upon receiving his sight, followed Jesus along the way probably because he realized that this merciful love that Jesus showed him is the source of all God’s gifts to him. The presence of Jesus in the crowd, Jesus’ personal concern for him, his faith that refused to be silenced by the crowd that tried to hush him, his faith that listens to Jesus’ words through the words of the crowd and was ready to respond to Jesus’ invitation without excuse, his firm hope for restored sight from Jesus, etc – all of these are nothing but acts of divine mercy in his life.
Today’s First Reading is from the Book of Consolation in which the Prophet Jeremiah reminds the exiled Israelites of God’s love for them as a people and individually, a love that will set them free from bondage and bring them home. They will experience divine mercy individually and as a community, “I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child. They shall return as an immense throng.” Everything is going to be an act of divine mercy and not something that they deserved. It is divine mercy that will free them from the servitude of their conquerors, “console them, guide them, and lead them to brooks of water.”
This is a prophecy that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ as the High Priest who “did not glorify Himself in becoming high priest.” Jesus Christ, His presence with us, and everything that He did, said, and endured, were all acts of mercy towards us. We could not have merited any of these things.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, do we have eyes and hearts for divine mercy? Like Bartimaeus, do we see Jesus’ presence in our midst as an act of divine mercy? Do we see His words to us in the Scriptures and in the Church’s Tradition as manifestations of divine mercy or are we so busy making excuses for why we do not obey His words to us? Do we see divine mercy being mediated to us in and through a Church made up of sinners, a Church that feeds and nourishes our Christian life in word and sacraments but also sometimes disappoints us through bad examples of her children? Do we have such trust in divine mercy that nothing can shake our conviction about Jesus personal concern for each and every one of us? Do we follow Jesus without reserve wherever He may lead us because we are convinced that all our goods are manifestations of His mercy for us and not things that we deserve?
One clear example that we are in desperate need for this eye and heart for divine mercy is the many excuses that we give for not responding to the words of Jesus Christ. I cannot help but think of the remarks of Cardinal Reinhard Marx in the just concluded synod on the family in which he painted the picture of Catholic morality as being both impossible and unrealistic. Referring to the moral demands that the divorced-and-remarried refrain from sexual activity, he said, “The advice to refrain from sexual acts in the new relationship not only appears unrealistic to many. It is also questionable whether sexual actions can be judged independent of the lived context.”
With all due respect, his words must lead us to ask the question, “Are Christ’s words to us as attested to by Scripture and Tradition about the indissolubility and sanctity of marriage now a burden to us more than an act of divine mercy?” Are Jesus’ words about adultery in Lk 16:18 no longer acts of divine mercy meant to guide us in right living? Is the universal vocation to chaste living according to one’s state of life now an unbearable burden imposed by a “dictator” God or an invitation of divine mercy? We can only see all the good that the Church has and possesses – her Commandments and laws and her sacramental system – as gifts of divine mercy to be gratefully received and faithfully used if only we had the eyes and heart for divine mercy. The sacrament of the Eucharist in which divine life is strengthened, the sacrament of Confession where divine life is restored to us after mortal sin, as well as that divine impulse that moves us to deeper conversion, repentance, and obedience to God’s Commandments are all gifts of divine mercy and we cannot pick one out of the pack and ignore the others.
In this life, we are constantly in need for divine mercy and it is being offered to us in every moment. Like Bartimaeus, we hear many voices screaming at us to shut up as we cry out to Jesus, “Jesus, have pity on me.” The devil, the flesh, and the world, those ever present enemies of our salvation, try to make our eyes blind and our hearts hardened towards divine mercy. But we also hear the voice of Jesus, the eternal High Priest who is no stranger to our weaknesses, whisper to us individually in our hearts, “What do you want me to do for you?” Which voice are we listening and which voice is influencing our actions?
Jesus repeats the same question to us in this Eucharistic celebration, “What do you want me to do for you?” If we have eyes and hearts for mercy, let nothing or no body hinder our cry for mercy, let us present our deepest needs to Him with confidence, let us listen attentively to His words to us, let us be ready to act on them without making excuses and be ready to leave the past behind and follow Him into a glorious future because we know that His mercy is the source of all the good that we will ever have or be.
Like Bartimaeus, we shall not be disappointed if we trustingly let His way become our own way now and forever.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!