In a lot of ways, the ability to see is much more than just about the actual ability to receive visual input; it’s more than just about having our eyes work properly. And likewise with not being able to see. In one sense, not being able to see means missing out on something. I’m thinking, say, of kids especially, who say “Lemmie see! Lemmie see!” when it seems to them like some very interesting phenomenon is apparently somehow going on without them. It’s not as much about actually wanting to see, but more not wanting to be left out of the experience. We also tend to use the word “see” to mean understanding in general. When someone explains something to us, we say, “Oh, I see,” even though it likely has nothing really to do with visual application.
I think both of these meanings are at play in our Gospel passage today. Bartimaeus, a blind man, was missing out on something. But not only was he missing out just because his sense of sight was gone. He was sitting by the roadside begging. That was his life, set apart from the community. To the crowd he couldn’t see, he mine as well have been invisible to them. And when he made his presence known, rather than lead him to Jesus, they looked to shut him up.
And yet, although he was blind, he actually understood who Jesus was—what He was about and what He could do—better than the rest. “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” (This is one of the earliest Christian prayers.) When Jesus heard him and wanted him brought forth, the crowd told Bartimaeus, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you,” as if they had it all figured out. But Bartimaeus had no doubts. He had faith in Him. He knew who Jesus was, what He was about and what He could do for him. He knew that Jesus could not only restore his sight but bring him the wholeness/the restoration/the deliverance he was missing out on.
We see this in our OT reading as well. The prophet Jeremiah—not one generally known for cheerful messages—has wonderful and consoling words from the Lord: shout, exult, and proclaim, “The Lord has delivered his people.” Because of their transgressions the People of God had been stuck in exile. But the Lord says, “I will bring them back…I will gather them…I will console them and guide them; I will lead them…For I am a father to Israel.” God will not abandon His people, even the most vulnerable; He will lead them to new life.
What Jeremiah announces here, Jesus fulfills in the Gospel. For Bartimaeus, it was certainly the opportunity of a lifetime, and he was not going to pass it up. He threw aside his cloak that he had been using to collect alms, leaving his old life behind in order to receive a new life through Christ Jesus. What’s more, of course, is that not only did Bartimaeus find healing; he also became a true disciple. Jesus says, “Go your way.” But he went and followed Jesus instead. His way was now the way of Christ. To him, there was no longer any other way. His faith had opened the way to transformation, and his transformation then led the way to discipleship.
In our own lives it can be hard for us to see/to understand sometimes. We can be blinded by sin, blinded by the ways of the world, blinded by hardships. We can fail to see the Light of Christ, and to make Christ’s way our way. Living apart from God, we’re stuck in exile. But as we see, too, in our 2nd Reading, the Lord empathizes with our frailty, and with humble compassion is here to help us to see, to bring us to freedom and restoration and wholeness and conversion and deliverance. We were given new life in baptism. We continue to be able to be transformed by the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. We continue to be able transformed through prayer and service. All of this involves knowing what keeps us back, knowing how we need healing, knowing where God’s light needs to shine, and allowing God’s grace to make it happen.
Ultimately, to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is not about a certain moment, or even many moments—though these can indeed be turning points for us. It’s not about a moment but a movement. We can experience something like a retreat, an Ignite, a confession, or Sunday Mass and say, “Well that was nice.” But how different are we? What change did it make? What commitments did it move us to make in our life? Like with Bartimaeus, Jesus gives us the freedom to choose. After encountering Christ, do we just go back our own way, or do we throw our cloak aside and follow Him? It’s all about transformation—in ourselves, in our families, in our parish, in our world. I believe God wants amazing things to happen here, even more than they already do. I believe with all my heart that God wants St. Peter Church to be a place of transformation—again, in ourselves, in our families, in our parish, in our world.
How do we get there? I believe one way is through a core group of people (a new “12”) who are committed to engaging in a several-month process that forms them as intentional, missionary disciples, and so help me with this mission of growing as a parish where transformation happens more and more. I’m asking YOU (perhaps especially as a couple) to prayerfully consider coming to an informational night on December 3 where this will be laid out more fully. You don’t have to worry about being “qualified,” because as the old saying goes, God doesn’t call the equipped He equips the called.
For all of us, let invite Jesus today to be Lord of our life once again, and to be open to His saving and transforming power.
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