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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Jer 31:7-9; Heb 5:1-6; Mk 10:46-52

October 28, 2012

In today's Gospel, Jesus' departure from Jericho was interrupted by the persistent cry of a blind beggar. Given that many in that day considered blindness a punishment for some sin the person (or perhaps his parents) had committed, this disruption was not only inconvenient, it seemed downright offensive. Thus, many in the crowd rebuked Bartimaeus, telling him to keep silent. Yet, there is something unique about the cries of this blind man. He asserts a hope-filled faith; and calls Jesus the "Son of David" the name synonymous for the long-awaited Messiah. Still there is some tenuousness to the cry in that the man asks for "pity" - hardly a bold demand, as such! Jesus notices this, stops, and gives the directive, "Call him." Some in the crowd then make an effort to ensure that Bartimaeus realized that Jesus had called him, and they encouraged him to respond: "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you." And Bartimaeus responds with great enthusiasm! He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.

But Jesus does not seem to want to respond only to "pity."   Jesus asked, "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus recognized the dignity and full agency of this man before him. Now embolden, Bartimaeus' answer is different. He respectfully declares, "Master, I want to see." His deep desire for wholeness, spoken in faith is not lost on Jesus. Indeed, Jesus reaffirms this man's faith and, "Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way."

Many reading this reflection will recall the days prior to Vatican Council II when "Father," "Brother," or "Sister" did nearly everything to or for the faithful laity. Though certainly there was tremendous good about those days. However, as we look back at that time from the perspective of fifty years of more involvement of ordinary lay people in the Church, we realize how the laity, like Bartimaeus, often were disempowered. The clergy and religious were often perceived as "holier" than "mere lay people." The effect was to silence the voice of the laity. Yet there were many clergy and religious who did enable the maturing of lay vocations in the Church. It was such women and men who developed the renewed theological grounding and practices that made the renewal of the lay vocation in Vatican II possible. Such voices were like those in the crowd who made sure that Bartimaeus knew Jesus was calling him. Indeed they understood themselves as servants who - each in her or his own way - shared in the priesthood of Christ (Heb 5: 1-6).

One of my favorite passages from the documents of the Second Vatican Council is Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), § 40. This section is found in the chapter entitled, "The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church."

40. The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of all perfection, preached holiness of life to each and every one of His disciples of every condition. He Himself stands as the author and consummator of this holiness of life: "Be you therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect". Indeed He sent the Holy Spirit upon all men that He might move them inwardly to love God with their whole heart and their whole soul, with all their mind and all their strength and that they might love each other as Christ loves them. The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God's gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received. They are warned by the Apostle to live "as becomes saints", and to put on "as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience", and to possess the fruit of the Spirit in holiness. Since truly we all offend in many things we all need God's mercies continually and we all must daily pray: "Forgive us our debts"

Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.[1] 

Today, we who are the heirs and heiresses of Vatican Council II can rejoice in the renewal of the lay vocation in the Church, and sing with the Psalmist - "The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy." But such joy grows stagnant unless it is shared. Bartimaeus showed us the way forward - ". . . he received his sight and followed him on the way." How are you following Jesus on the way? To what are you being called - Lay Ecclesial Ministry? Priesthood? Social service? Hospitality ministry? Eucharistic ministry? Religious Life? Medical service? Humanitarian missions? - or?  What is your deepest desire? What do you want to see?

 

Dawn M. Nothwehr, OSF, PhD, The Erica and Harry John Family Professor of Catholic Theological Ethics

 

[1] Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, Solemnly Promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, on November 21, 1964,

 

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