01 November 2018

Homily - 28 October 2018 - The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Dear brothers and sisters,

It is perhaps a curious thing that we sing with the Psalmist today, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3). Taken from the third verse of Psalm 126, this verse comes just before the Psalmist prays, “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the torrents in the southern desert” (Psalm 126:4). Clearly this Psalm is not simply about gladness of heart, but also about deep loss and sorrow. This seeming emotional contradiction is also seen in the final verse of this Psalm: “Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves” (Psalm 126:6). In the Christian life, the two – sorrow and joy - seem to go hand in hand.

When he thought about the meaning of this verse, of going forth weeping and coming back rejoicing, Saint Augustine recognized that it applies to every Christian; we all go forth weeping and we all return rejoicing. To clarify his meaning, he asked,

Is there anyone, after all, who stands still? Is there anyone who, from the moment he enters life, is not forced to get moving? An infant is born; it gets moving by growing. Death is the end. We have still got to come to the end – but with merrymaking.[1]

This is the reality of human life that far too many people try to ignore. And so, when the approach of death at last seems certain and we can run from it no longer, many people come to the end not with merrymaking, but with deep sorrow and regret. This, my friends, is not how a Christian - who has lived a life worthy of his or her Lord - approaches death.

Together with so many of the Saints, Saint Francis of Assisi looked toward death with great longing. This is why he could sing in his Canticle of Brother Sun,

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.[2]

The great troubadour of the Lord speaks of bodily death as “the second death” because he knows that those joined to the Lord Jesus in the waters of baptism have already died and so the second death, bodily death, was no great concern for him because he trusted in the words of Saint Paul:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

Saint Paul wrote these words to the Christians in Rome because he trusted in Jesus’ own words: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26)? Jesus asked this question to Martha, but he also asks it to each of us.

The man in the Gospel, Bartimaeus, likewise trusted in the words of the Lord Jesus and in his power. This is why, despite the attempts of the crowd to silence and humiliate him, he kept calling out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me” (Mark 10:48). In his blindness, Bartimaeus saw more of who Jesus is than the seeing crowd around him. “Those following Jesus [had] not yet learned to bring people to him instead of sending them away.”[3] Who do we try to keep from Jesus? Who is it we should instead bring to Jesus?

Nevertheless, Bartimaeus would not be silenced and kept calling out to Jesus in humble trust, unafraid to disturb the crowd or make them uncomfortable, because he was confident in the Lord’s merciful love. What do we allow to silence us from calling out to Jesus in humble trust? Are we as persistent in our prayer as Bartimaeus, or do we yield to obstacles on the way to him?

Hearing the blind man’s pleas, Jesus had him brought before him. The crowd, who just a moment before tried to keep Bartimaues from Jesus, now attempts to encourage him even though he was not the one who needed encouragement. “The decisive moment was the direct, personal encounter between the Lord and that suffering man. They found each other face to face:  God with his desire to heal and the man with his desire to be healed; two freedoms, two converging desires.”[4]

Standing before the eyes of love, though unable to yet see them, the blind man said simply to Jesus, “Master, I want to see” (Mark 10:51).

With these words, the miracle was worked: God's joy and the man's joy. And Bartimaeus, who had come into the light, as the Gospel narrates, "followed him on the way"; that is, he became a disciple of the Lord and went up to Jerusalem with the Master to take part with him in the great mystery of salvation [Mark 10:52]. This account, in the essentiality of its passages, recalls the catechumen's journey towards the Sacrament of Baptism, which in the ancient Church was also known as "Illumination".

Faith is a journey of illumination: it starts with the humility of recognizing oneself as needy of salvation and arrives at the personal encounter with Christ, who calls one to follow him on the way of love.[5]

Bartimaeus looked into the eyes of Love and followed closely after Jesus. How closely are you are I willing to follow Jesus? Will we allow ourselves to lose our feet along his way and be identified with him, or will we seek to stay indistinct from the crowd?

To live as an authentic disciple of Jesus requires that we place his will before our own; it means that we cast off our self-absorption and take up the mantle of his selflessness; it means that we live not according to our own person rules, thoughts, and whims, but that adhere to his commandments and to his logic of love. All of this requires a daily dying to self, which can be difficult and painful and sometimes produces weeping. This is why Saint Augustine encourages us with these words:

He suffered for us, let us suffer for him; he died for us, let us die for him, in order to live forever with him. But perhaps you are hesitant to die, O mortal creature, though you are bound to die sometime or other, precisely because you are mortal. Would you like not to fear death? Die for God.[6]

Having gone forward in this life weeping, may the Lord unite us so closely to himself that, seeing the beauteous glory of his Face, we may come to end rejoicing. Amen.

[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 31.3.4.
[2] Saint Francis of Assisi, The Canticle of Brother Sun, 12-14.
[3] Mary Healing, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2008), 217.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 29 October 2006.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 313D.3.

No comments:

Post a Comment