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What's Our Place in the Story?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Thirtieth Sunday of the Year. fr Richard Conrad 

Thirthieth Sunday of the Year. fr Richard Conrad brings out how oddly the crowd behaves in today's Gospel and shows how this is an invitation for us to examine our own conscience.

The events and teachings recorded by St. Mark are meant to frighten us. True, the Gospels are Good News, and comfort; but nothing in them is meant to make us complacent. If there is a danger of that, we should work hard to let them make us uncomfortable, and so discover the ways in which they truly comfort us – remembering that, originally, “to comfort” meant “to strengthen” rather than “to soothe”. Of the four Evangelists, Mark stands out as eager to make us uncomfortable, as his way of encouraging us to invoke the Holy Spirit’s strength to follow Jesus on the way.

Jesus leaves Jericho with his disciples and a crowd. These people have seen his miracles; no doubt some of them have personally benefited from his healing power. They have been delighted by what they have seen, and they want more. After fifteen miles or so, they are going to call out for wonders: “Hoshianna!” – “Please bring salvation!” – “Reveal your victory!” But before they have even gone one mile, they are faced with the possibility of a striking miracle: Bartimaeus wants Jesus to restore his sight. Whereupon a lot of these people who want more miracles, try to prevent a miracle! By some perverse instinct, they tell Bartimaeus to shut up. Do they suppose Bartimaeus is beyond Jesus’ power to heal? Do they begrudge Jesus’ generosity? Do they have their own plan for what the day is to bring, so that they are unwilling to let a small miracle delay the uphill journey to Jerusalem where a great victory is imminent? Jesus makes them bring Bartimaeus to him, and makes him able to see – physically, but also spiritually, because Jesus’ approach has evoked faith. Bartimaeus uses his new-found sight to follow Jesus on The Way – his Way of the Cross.

One way to examine our conscience is to ask where we fit into this event. Do we suppose that some person – or some situation – is beyond Jesus’ power, so that we do not bother to pray for physical or spiritual healing? Are we reluctant to make space in our parish or congregation for “awkward” people, fearing they will be hard work, because we don’t think Jesus can do much for them – or don’t like the idea that he may want to do so through us and our patient care? When we have the chance to help someone grow morally and spiritually, do we hold back because of laziness, or fear – or because it secretly pleases us to remain better than they are? If so, we begrudge Jesus’ generosity. Do we guard our own plans for the day, or for the next hour, so jealously that we refuse to let some small need or some small kindness derail us? If we do adjust our plans, do we do so with a bad grace? Are we eager to bring people to Jesus, or do we have to be pushed into doing so? In all such matters, we need tact and prudence, and – especially – the Holy Spirit’s personal guidance as he gives us the right instincts for what to guard and what to give up, for what to say and what to leave unsaid, for when to pray and when to realise that God’s Wisdom is not going to give us the particular good we are asking for. But we need to ask ourselves regularly whether we have been insensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, and have needed the Holy Spirit to give us a push.

Or do we occupy Bartimaeus’ place in the event? Do we need Jesus to heal us? If so, do we ask him for mercy? Certainly, Jesus can always evoke greater faith, stronger spiritual sight!

Bartimaeus saw the need to follow Jesus to Jerusalem, where Jesus was to bring salvation and reveal – indeed, enact – God’s victory over hatred and cruelty, over satan and death. As we move from hearing the Gospel reading to celebrating the Holy Eucharist, we are called to “follow Jesus to Jerusalem” and witness his Sacrifice. The Consecration of the Eucharist brings home to us Jesus’ giving of his Body and Blood on the Cross, and charges us to imitate what we celebrate, to live sacrificially. We are asked to see what Bartimaeus saw, the need to enter into Jesus’ Sacrifice. And we who are nourished by his Body and Blood may be filled with the Holy Spirit, who can push, or prompt, or – most often – gently accompany us on The Way.

Readings: Jeremiah 31:7-9|Hebrews 5:1-6|Mark 10:46-52 

Richard Conrad O.P.

fr. Richard Conrad teaches dogmatic and sacramental theology at Blackfriars, Oxford, where he is also the director of the Aquinas Institute.


P.T. commented on 24-Oct-2015 03:43 PM
Inspiring homily, though hardly for me to understand all. Thank you!

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