Saturday, October 27, 2018

10/28/18 -- 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Bartimaeus may be physically blind, but he is the only one who seems to see who Jesus really is. Last weekend James and John didn’t really recognize Jesus. There was nothing wrong with their eyes, but they didn’t see Jesus as the Messiah. 

The weekend before the rich young man walked away sad because he didn’t really recognize Jesus either.

I suspect if we’re honest with ourselves, we live in a kind of blindness like them. One of the things that happens when we don’t see clearly is that we make mistakes. 

We make choices that bring destruction upon us and the people around us. We wander further and further away from Jesus.

No matter what we have done or how far we have wandered, no matter how negative we have become, no matter how blind we are, Jesus still wants to be in our lives.

Let’s see if the blind man can teach us something about seeing. There are two things we know about Bartimaeus. He is blind and he is on the side of the road. From his place on the side of the road he is considered an outcast, a sinner.

Religious thinking at the time says that he is a sinner and that he or his parents have done something wrong so he deserve this blindness. His deformity is due to his or their sin.

People were told not to have anything to do with sinners for fear the sin was contagious. So he is a symbol of those who are cast out. He is blind Bartimaeus, an outcast on the side of the road who sees exactly who Jesus is. He cries out, “Son of David, would you have pity on me?”

Now the crowd is not interested in putting Jesus in touch with Bartimaeus. That’s why they tell Bartimaeus to be quiet. But Jesus steps in. I would like to talk to this man. Bring him over here to me.

Pay attention if you would to what Jesus asks of Bartimaeus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Remember the question that was put to Jesus last weekend by James and John. “Will you do anything that we ask you to do for us?”

“What do you want me to do for you?”

“I want to see.” Implied in this is that Bartimaeus wants to follow Jesus. Bartimaeus wants to be on the inside again. Bartimaeus wants to belong. Bartimus wants to be part of whatever Jesus is inviting people into.

Jesus’ response to Bartimaeus is beautiful. If you really believe that I am the Messiah then you do see. You are already seeing. 

The blind man, who now sees, stands up and follows Jesus.

What can we learn from this blind man turned disciple? We can learn to see Jesus for who he truly is, the Messiah, the Son of God. 

We can come to an understanding that we need to cry out for mercy because we have sinner and have wandered far from God. 

Recognizing our own brokenness, we can have the humility to ask for healing when Jesus calls out to us. And having been healed, we can have the courage to follow after Jesus when we see.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

10/21/18 -- 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

When James and John ask to be ranked first and second among the Apostles, we are told that the other disciples become indignant.

Indignance is the feeling or showing of anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment.

Why are they so upset? Each one, in his own thoughts, is probably saying to himself that he should be ranked first. In essence, the Apostles are competing for Jesus’ attention. 

They want to be loved more than the others. They want to be ranked higher than the others. 

You know we sometimes play that same scenario in our heads. My boss doesn’t realize my potential, and if she just paid more attention to me, she would certainly realize that I am more capable than the others.

Why does my brother constantly get treated better than me? I want to be my parents’ favorite. This spirit of competition certainly sets us up for trouble and jealousy and hurt feelings.

While the disciples get upset and allow indignation and jealousy to consume them, please note that Jesus does not get upset. 

He simply tells James and John that they are not really aware of the implications of their request. 

Jesus may be able to grant some of the request, but some of the request is simply not his to grant. To sit at my right and my left is not mine to give.

Then he challenges them to grow. You are not in a competition to see who is the greatest. It shall not be that way among my disciples.

Jesus wants them to understand that they are not competing for his attention. They are not competing for Jesus’ love. They are not competing so that they can be ranked from greatest to least.

Jesus loves them all the same. Jesus loved Peter and James and John even when they messed everything up. Jesus loved the rich young man who walked away sad. 

Jesus loves you and me even when our hearts are filled with jealousy and envy and pride. But Jesus also challenges us to grow.

Whoever wishes to be great must lead a life of service. Whoever wishes to be great must go about doing good for others. Service is absolutely necessary to be a disciple.

James and John asked for places of honor among the Apostles. They were told that the places of honor are reserved for those who serve.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

10/14/18 -- 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

I am not rich and I am not young. But my heart still goes out to the young man in today’s gospel. Jesus asks the impossible of him, his face falls and he walks away sad.

I think, at that moment, we close the door on the young man. We wash our hands of him and we write him off as lost forever. 

While very few of us are very wealthy, most of us have many possessions. Would we sell all our possessions to follow Jesus? Since we haven’t done it yet, the answer is probably not. 

Then we better not close the door on the rich young man just yet because we might be in the same boat as he is.

We are told that the young man went away sad for he had many possessions. But we are never told that he refused Jesus’ invitation to follow. 

I’m sure it was a long walk home. And on that walk home he had to struggle with the tug on his heart to follow Jesus. He also had to struggle with his ties to his family and his possessions.

Maybe he went back and forth about what he should do. Maybe he had to struggle with what to tell his parents, for surely the wealth was not his alone. It was also his family’s.

Maybe he struggled with putting the right words together to tell his parents that he had made a big decision.

Mom and dad, I’m renouncing all of my possessions and family inheritance to follow Jesus of Nazareth. I told him I’ve kept all the commandments from my youth and he said it wasn’t enough. He wanted more. 

He told me that I needed to sell all my possessions, give to the poor and then follow him. I believe with all my heart that he is the Christ. I love you but I need to do this. I hope you will understand and respect my decision. I have to follow him.

The young man knew that something was missing in his life. Otherwise, he would not have asked Jesus anything at all.

The young man may have gone away sad but there is hope that he will come back again happy to be following Jesus.

The implications for us are staggering. First, Jesus always looks upon us with love. Second, Jesus never closes the door on us. Third, Jesus always calls us to follow. And fourth, Jesus is always happy when we come back again.

The rich young man is faced with a decision of a lifetime. Can he make the difficult decision to renounce some worldly stuff in order to follow Jesus? 

The decision is ours as well. Can we let go of some of our ties to our worldly possessions to order to have treasures in heaven?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

10/7/18 -- 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

The Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children. And those who are not like children will not enter the Kingdom of God.

For Jesus, entering into the Kingdom of God means entering the Kingdom here and now. Yes the Kingdom is also heaven and the afterlife. That’s why it’s sometimes called the Kingdom of Heaven. But it is also here and now. 

If children can enter the Kingdom of God before adults, we have to ask ourselves what do children have that adults don’t.

Children have the ability to trust. They haven’t yet discovered the world of lies and deceit and mistrust and betrayal. 

As adults we have been hurt by others who were trusted so we are slow to trust. That spills over into our relationship with God. Because we are slow to trust others, we also have difficulty trusting God. 

To be childlike, we once again have to place our trust in God and believe that God loves us and desires only what is best for us.

Children have the ability to hope. Sometimes we have so many difficulties in life that we lose hope and we begin to despair. 

We come to believe that we are no good or that people are against us or that we will never measure up. When this happens, we lose hope and often sink into depression and despair.

We have to believe again that we can do better and that tomorrow can be better. So we ask Jesus to restore our hope that things can get better. 

Children have the ability to live in the present. We adults worry about everything and so we either live in the past worrying that the past will eventually catch up with us or we live in the future dreading what will become of us.

Children seldom worry about their future. They live for today. Children forgive easily and move on. They don’t cling to old grudges. They don’t get bogged down. They live here and now.

This one is a tough one for us so we have to ask for the grace to live in the present. And as we begin to live in the present we begin to discover the Kingdom of God all around us.

Children are amazed at the world around them. They are curious. They ask questions. They are filled with awe and wonder.

Life sometimes beats us up in such a way that everything seems ordinary. We fail to see the wonder of God’s Kingdom all around us, the beauty of others and the beauty of God’s creation.

We need to recapture our sense of wonder and awe and see the beauty of the Kingdom all around us.

Children are completely dependent on others for almost everything.

On the other hand, we pride ourselves in being self-sufficient. We want to be in charge. We want to call the shots. We try to do it alone. We forget that we need God in our lives. 

We forget that we are dependent upon God for everything. And so the Kingdom of God remains hidden from our eyes.

But we want to enter into the Kingdom of God. And the Kingdom is open to us here and now. When we turn and become like little children we enter into the Kingdom.