30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B ON OCTOBER 24, 2021 (R. 1: Jeremiah 31: 7- 9; Psalm 126: 1- 6; R. 2: Hebrews 5: 1- 6; Gospel: Mark 10: 46- 52)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
The Prophet Jeremiah is easily identified as a pessimist. This identification stems from the fact that Jeremiah is known for announcing disasters and catastrophes. His messages are more associated with threats. However, four chapters (30- 33) in his book take a different dimension. He begins to announce good news. As such, these chapters make up what some call the “Book of Consolation” or the “Book of Hope.” In today’s selection, he announces that God is about to carry out a great work in the lives of the children of Israel; God will deliver them from Nineveh and lead them to the Promised Land. On the list of those who will be part of this New Exodus are the blind, the lame and women with children, which today would be the marginalized. These are very vulnerable, yet the Lord will lead them and will not let them stumble. The Lord is always there for the helpless who hope in Him.
What Jeremiah talked about finds fulfillment in the coming of Jesus. Bartimaeus in today’s Gospel passage represents the very many whom God delivers from bondage. The story of Bartimaeus is my story and it is also your story in different ways. He was in misery but his encounter with Jesus brought him deliverance. The case of Bartimaeus was that of “double trouble.” Not only was he blind, but he was also a poor beggar. His faith played a very important role in his healing. Contrary to the popular maxim, “Seeing is believing,” Bartimaeus did not have to see to believe; his was a living out of the scripture that says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10: 17). There were many who saw Jesus when he multiplied loaves of bread, healed the sick, raised the dead etc., yet had little or no faith in him. Bartimaeus on his part did not see any of such, he only heard about Jesus and that was enough to make him have so much faith in Jesus.
Nicholas Poussin, a 17th Century French artist had a wonderful painting of today’s Gospel passage. Once upon a time, another artist and a poet had a conversation about the painting. The artist asked the poet what he thought was remarkable about the painting. The poet mentioned the figure of Christ, the grouping of the individuals, the expression on their faces and everything. The artist then asked what he thought about the discarded cane lying on the steps of the house in the painting. The poet asked, “What is special about that?” The artist then went on to explain that it was the symbol of Bartimaeus’ faith. He said Bartimaeus sat on those steps and had the cane in his hand, but when Jesus called him, even though he had not been given his sight, he believed that he was no longer going to need the cane and so he left his cane and went to Jesus.
This reminds me of the story of the Pastor who gathered his Parishioners to pray for rain when there was serious drought. He asked them to each bring an object that would be a symbol of their faith. When they gathered for the prayer, people came with various sacramental and religious articles such as Bible, Rosary beads, medals, holy water etc. A little girl came with something strange, an umbrella. Some ridiculed her for bringing a non-religious article as her symbol of faith. When the pastor asked her why she chose to bring an umbrella, she said, “We are here to pray for rain and I believe that God will answer our prayer, so I brought the umbrella so as not to go back home drenched in the rain.”
The faith expressed by Bartimaeus had to experience some obstacles. The crowd around Jesus rebuked the blind man telling him to be silent, but he shouted more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” In life, there are always those people who are very comfortable with our discomfort, those who take pleasure in our displeasure and are not ready to stand any attempt we make to make ourselves better. They give us every possible reason why our efforts will not yield results. There are also bullies who are always out to prevent us from seeing our strengths while emphasizing our weaknesses. Around different figures of authorities in government and even in the Church are those receptionists, secretaries, personal assistants, etc., who make the boss look unapproachable. We also have the “Holier than thou Christians” who are always there to discourage repentant sinners from coming to the Lord. If you are a victim of such crowds, please, shout more when they tell you to be silent so that the Son of David may hear your voice. The good news is that when he hears your voice, the same crowd will be at your service to lead you to him. Notice how those who stood as stumbling blocks were just referred to as the crowd while the blind man is given a proper name. Your afflictions will bring you breakthrough by the power of Jesus.
Dearly Beloved in Christ, I don’t know what you are passing through now, and I don’t not know the crowds standing in your way of receiving your blessing. One thing I know well is that if you give Jesus a chance, he will turn everything around for good for you. May our active participation at Mass today bring answers to prayers that we may go home singing:
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.