Monday, October 29, 2018

Father Riley's homily from October 28, 2018

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23 PENTECOST, PROPER XXV - B - 18       MARK 10. 46-52
In last week’s gospel, two of Jesus’ disciples came to him as they were on the road to Jerusalem and asked for a favor. Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?” The brothers wanted to sit one at his right hand and the other his left when he came into his kingdom. However, what they asked was not in Jesus’ power to give as he said, but was for those for whom it had been prepared.
In today’s passage, Jesus is continuing his journey to the Holy City and is passing through Jericho. Jericho was some 15 miles from Jerusalem and was a busy commercial and religious center. However, Jesus and the 12 are not the only ones passing through the city. The roads are beginning to be crowded with pilgrims making their way to celebrate the feast of Passover.
Mark tells us there is a certain blind by the name of Bartimaeus who is sitting at the roadside begging for alms. He hears from those in the crowd that Jesus of Nazareth is among the ones who are passing by. Obviously, the blind man has heard that this Jesus has the power to heal and make whole. He begins to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” But he was told to be quiet.
Undeterred, the blind man shouts even louder, afraid that his opportunity to be healed is slipping away. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus hears his cry and stops. “Call him.” When he heard that Jesus was calling him, the blind man leaped up out of the dirt, and throwing off his cloak, he came to Jesus. Jesus then asks him the same question he had asked James and John, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“I want to see.” This time the request was in Jesus’ power to grant. Because of your faith, Jesus told him, you can see. He was now free to go and do whatever he wanted to do for the very first time in his life. Instead, he chose to follow Jesus on the way to Jerusalem.
Bartimaeus wanted to see and what he saw as his eyes were opened for the first time was the face of Jesus standing before him. So many of us walk through life with our eyes wide open, yet we comprehend little of its meaning. Yet as followers of Jesus, we should want to see things as they really are, or as God intends for them to be, not as we would have them.
However, as I said in last week’s homily, we need to be careful what we ask for. God can handle our request for genuine spiritual insight but can we? With such a gift, we will be able to see all things clearly. That includes seeing ourselves as God sees us.
With such insight we would have to admit that we do not know all there is to know about God, about religion, about ourselves and one another. We may want to see with the eyes of faith but we must be prepared for the consequences. Yet we should all aspire to be like Bartimaeus and want to see.
To see, as Bartimaeus was able to see Jesus and make the choice to follow him is to see with insight or wisdom, where vision is not something in the eye of the beholder but a conviction in the heart of the believers. With conviction comes the gift of salvation.
Jesus performed two miracles for Bartimaeus. He restored sight to the eyes long physically blind and gave insight to a heart that longed to see. Together these two miracles were the gift of new life and light for one who had lived in total darkness.
With the miracle comes the grace to step forward to embark on the new life, which Bartimaeus was given by the grace, love, and mercy of God in the person of Jesus Christ.  As a sign of his new life, Bartimaeus left his cloak in the dirt. The words “followed him” imply discipleship, but Bartimaeus is otherwise unknown.
He could have been one of the 120 other disciples who were privileged to see the resurrected Jesus and from among whom the successor of Judas was chosen. Either way he stands as a stark contrast with the 12. Bartimaeus is a sign that Jesus is trying to open his follower’s eyes to see him, not just as God’s Messiah, but the one who would give his life to bring salvation to all.
As we discover again and again throughout the gospels, faith is the key to salvation. Faith consists not least in recognizing who Jesus is and trusting that he has the power to rescue, that is save all “those who approach God through him…” Faith means believing God will lead the “blind” back to clarity from the far corners of confusion, as the prophet Jeremiah foretold in today’s first lesson.
Faith means believing that Jesus as the Christ intercedes on our behalf at the right hand of the father as one of us, yet One beyond us, as our great high priest, “holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens,” as the author of Hebrews so eloquently writes.
As the faith of Bartimaeus gave rise to miracles so too our faith will work wonders for us. And with Faith comes the gifts of Hope and Love. Today’s gospel story calls for a faith strong enough to make miracles happen and for courage and determination to live with the miracle once it occurs.
Bartimaeus could have gone and done anything he wanted to do. One can only imagine the things he must have thought about doing and the places he dreamed about going as he sat in the dirt at the roadside day in and day out while the world passed him.
He only wanted to see. When he was granted the gift, what he saw was Jesus and in seeing Jesus, he received more than the eye could see. He saw in Jesus the one who gave him new life and he wasn’t about to let him go.
Everything he had ever thought about doing, and all the places he dreamed about seeing, no longer mattered. He made the choice right then and there to follow Jesus. For Bartimaeus it was nothing less than Amazing Grace. He was once blind. But now he could see.
If you asked Jesus today what he could do for you. What would you ask for? And if the Lord of Life granted your request` what would you do with the gift you received? AMEN+

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