05 November 2009

Amazing Grace

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Jer 31:7-9; Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6; Heb 5:1-6; Mk 10:46-52

The Gospel this Sunday, like any other story line in the Gospels, is significant not only for its being most likely factual but also for its being allegorical. There is more to the blindness of Bartimaeus than just the physical. There is more to Bartimaeus than just being a footnote in history. Inasmuch as there is darkness and blindness all around us, there is also a Bartimaeus in each of us.

First a story…

A blind man and his brother-in-law decided to have some bonding time and went to go hunting together. They both set traps to catch birds. The brother-in-law caught a beautiful bird but the blind man caught a much beautiful and rare bird. The brother-in-law switches the birds thinking that the man will never know. On the way home, they have a conversation and the brother-in-law asks why people fight or what starts war between people. The blind man answers “By people doing to each other what you have just done to me.” The brother-in-law is shamed and admits to his deception. They switch birds and the brother-in-law went back to their unfinished conversation, “What do you think is the solution to the problem of war, hate and division?” The blind man says, “By doing to others what you have just done to me”.

Which of the two now is really blind? Siisay an butá saindang duwa?

In Acts 26,18, St Paul says that he was sent “to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God”.

St. Paul is talking about spiritual blindness and likens salvation to seeing the light. In 2 Cor 4,6, he says: “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ”.

God’s revelation is salvation. The more that we get to know God, the more we are assured of salvation. By knowing God we mean more than just seeing with the eyes or knowing in the mind, but living in the life of God and following His way.

God has fully revealed Himself in Jesus. But not everybody has come to accept the fullness of revelation in Him. In 2 Cor 4,3 St. Paul says: “And even though our gospel is hidden, it is hidden for those who are lost.”

Who are these who are lost or perishing or wasting away? They are those “in whose case the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they may not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (v.4).

Spiritual blindness does not only afflict non-believers or those who choose not to follow God’s law as written in the Bible. Even those who call themselves Christians can be blinded by the god of this age.

The point of the story though is not only to teach of the danger of falling into spiritual blindness but more to provide us with a way, a guide. Bartimaeus’ story is every Christian’s story from blindness to sight, from darkness to light.

1. Bartimaeus is persistent in his quest.

His faith was that of a beggar. He knows what he needs and who can grant it to him. He is determined to ask from Jesus: “have mercy on me”. In Greek it is “Iesou, eleeson me”.

We echo those words at the beginning of the Mass when we say: “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison”, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy”. How wonderful it would be if we take to heart these words every time we say it. And remember that indeed grace is undeserved, yet still given to us by God.

And when Jesus asked what he can do for him, immediately he answered: “Master, I want to see.” Now I would like you to take these words to heart, and say them with me: “Master, I want to see.” The question begs to be asked: Are you ready to accept the things that Jesus will make you see?

2. Bartimaeus is firm in his confession.

He calls Jesus repeatedly, mightily: “Jesus, Son of David”. We don’t know how he comes to know of this title. Perhaps it is how he heard other people talk about Jesus. But we do know that he shouted with the greatest of conviction, without a care for what others may say or think of him.

Let us ask ourselves: How have I been firm in my confession of Jesus as my Lord and Savior? How have I been consistent in my beliefs – especially when faced with a difficult situation or left holding an unpopular position? Or have I chosen convenience over conscience, practicality over Christianity?

Another aspect of Bartimaeus’ confession is that it is imperfect. The title Son of David connotes a clinging to the idea of the awaited Messiah as a political savior. But Jesus didn’t come to save the Jews from political oppression or the world from poverty and hunger. Jesus came to conquer the very root of political oppression and all the world’s social ills: sin and death.

In time, even Bartimaeus’ very idea of Jesus would change as his spiritual blindness is peeled away by Jesus’ revelation of Himself.

Let us ask ourselves: Have I made efforts to get to know more my faith in Jesus and as a Catholic by reading and studying the Bible and the catechism? Have I made efforts to deepen my faith by joining Church organizations and movements that may bring me more spiritual nourishment? If you haven’t done enough or any of these yet, don’t you think it’s about time you do?

3. Bartimaeus “followed Him on the way”.

After he received his sight, he became a disciple of Jesus. Bible scholars say Bartimaeus’ name was mentioned in the story because he himself was a known member of the community of believers.

So how do we journey from darkness to light? We need to persistently seek what can satisfy our deepest needs. It is Christ. Once we find Him, we need to hold on to Him, firmly, trustingly.

Then, we follow him on the way – upholding His will and keeping true to our being His friends.

Then, we will see ourselves and the world ever more clearly as layers upon layers of blindness will be peeled away from our eyes, until finally we get to see God in beatific vision in heaven.

I would like to end this reflection with the lyrics of one of the best loved spirituals in the world: "Amazing Grace". The life story of its composer, John Newton (b.1725), is one exemplary journey from darkness to light. But that is for another time.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

No comments:

Post a Comment