Son of Timaeus

Blind BartimeusToday’s reflection is on the readings for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 28, 2018.

What’s in a name? In today’s Gospel Jesus encounters a blind man, a social nobody, an outcast, and a sinner. He meets Bartimaeus. Even Bartimaeus’ name reveals only that he is some else’s son. (bar means “son of”) Poor Bartimaeus really has nothing to offer anyone–not even a name of his own. But today Jesus changes all of that for him, and offers a promise to all of us.

Because Bartimaeus was blind, he was reduced to begging, poverty, and dependence on nothing more than the generosity of others. He cries out day and night in the hopes that someone might offer him something that will sustain him for the day. Any more than that and he becomes an easy target for thieves. He depends at every moment on the pity and  generosity of others–a difficult and horrible way to live. Bartimaeus’ poor circumstances have paved the way for his encounter with Jesus Christ, and for salvation. Let’s see Bartimaeus’ three steps to salvation in Jesus Christ.

First, like Bartimaeus, we need to recognize our poverty and our need for Jesus. The Gospel writer tells us that Bartimaeus was a beggar on the roadside out of Jericho. Bartimaeus had no misgivings about his lot. He brought nothing of his own to his relationship with Jesus. Not fame, not fortune, only sadness and sorrow and difficulty. He knew that he needed. That’s a lot of our problem in our country. We’ve got it pretty good. Jesus makes it very clear, he has come for those who are sick. Bartimaeus knew he needed–do we? Or is earthly wealth and comfort blinding us to our need for spiritual healing and wholeness? It’s quite easy to begin to believe our Facebook profile!
Secondly, we need to cry out! Upon hearing news that Jesus was coming his way, Bartimaeus cried out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” We need to know that we need, and then we need to make our needs known! Jesus hears Bartimaeus call out to him! That is the power of prayer! If we’re not praying, we’re not being heard! Jesus makes it clear to his disciples that they must ask! It’s crazy that so many Christians spend so little time in prayer–me included! The whole Old Testament if filled with examples of God’s people crying out to Him for delivery–and then God delivers them. The New Testament is equally filled with those who cry out and are delivered. Prayer must occupy a central part in every believer’s life. Jesus asks Bartimaeus plainly, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus says, “Master, I want to see,” and then he does. Are you in need? What do you want? Ask.
Finally, Bartimaeus teaches us that we have to be courageous! Bartimaeus was surrounded by haters! Everyone kept telling him to shut up! I’m sure there were beggars like him saying, “Why bother, don’t you know we’re nothing? We’re nobody! Why would he help us?!” Bartimaeus didn’t care! He kept on crying out! Others in the crowd thought they were pretty important. They figured that if Jesus was going to talk to anyone it would be them! They too tell him to shut it! Undeterred by haters, Bartimaeus boldly and courageously called on Jesus to heal him and transform his life. Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
So there you have it, salvation through relationship with Jesus in three steps. 1. Recognize our need. 2. Cry out to Him. 3. Be courageous. I’d like to leave you with that, but the story does not end there, I’m afraid. Those who know their needs know that their needs do not go away. Those who know their needs don’t go away know they will be crying out to Him again. And those who cry out to him often will need constant courage–a gift of the Holy Spirit.
The final step, then, is to follow him on the way. To remain close to him always. The Gospel writer intentionally tells us that healing demands a willingness to follow Jesus–wherever he goes. St. Mark says, “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.”
Bartimaeus found Jesus, found humility, found his voice, and found his courage–and by doing so discovered his ultimate identity in being a son of God–and we can too. That’s his promise. In Jesus we are no longer son of Stephen, daughter of Janice. In Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, with humility, prayer, and courage we can all follow him–and so we must.

For Reflection:

What earthly pleasures possess you, and keep you from recognizing your need for Jesus?

How much of your day is spent in prayer? How important is it for you to spend time alone with the Lord in prayer?

To what degree do you allow “haters” and “nay-sayers” to affect your relationship with God? Who are those in your life keeping you from a relationship with Jesus?

If you’ve been healed, are you following Him?

By Deacon Stephen Valgos

Welcome, Friend!

Today’s reflection is for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 30, 2018.

Today’s reading from Numbers and the Gospel today make one thing abundantly clear, namely, that God is calling upon, blessing, and raising up workers to do his work and his will…and we might not know anything about it. Deal with it. And if you’re smart and holy, give thanks.

There are far more workers in the vineyard of the Lord than any of us can possibly imagine. Don’t quench the Spirit! Let it burn like a disco inferno!

I know it is quite popular to say to those who weren’t there, “You don’t understand, you just had to be there.” Well, actually, that’s just not true with God! Numbers makes that clear. Eldad and Medad not were not with the others when God’s spirit descended upon the 68 elders!

You can just imagine how it went during Joshua’s roll call…”Eldad!? Has anyone seen Eldad!? Okay, last time, Eldad!? Well, you know the ‘ol saying boys,” Joshua must have said, “you snooze, you lose!” Well, turns out that God was using Eldad and Medad anyway! And all those present weren’t very happy about it!

“Hey!” I can hear them say, “what the heck are they doing, man?! They were called, but they’re not qualified! You must be present to win! EVERYBODY knows that!” They no doubt complained to Joshua, who then complained to Moses, “Make ’em stop!”

Make ’em stop?! Are you kidding me?! Keep them going! Moses said, “Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!” You see, Moses knew it wasn’t about him at all, or those there on that day either, it was only about God’s work in the world. How excited Moses must have been to discover what God was able to do without him. Whew! That relieves a lot of pressure! Nm 11:25-29

Moses either knew all along, or was able to see that very day, that God’s plan of salvation is unfolding, and God can use even those not present to receive the Spirit in the ordinary way. Moses knew that some of those called by God might receive the Spirit in an extra-ordinary way known only to they and God. It’s by their fruit that you’ll know them. You’ll know because they will prophesy in His name. How exciting!

The Second Vatican Council in the document Gaudium et Spes #22 affirmed this truth when it wrote, “Since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.”

And the CCC 847 says it like this, “Those who through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation.

And in today’s Gospel, the apostle John plays the role of the new Joshua, son of Nun, and Jesus plays the role of the new Moses. Crazy that in the approximately 2,050 since Moses taught that important lesson, Jesus had to teach it again.

Today’s Gospel reads, “At that time, John said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.’ Jesus replied, ‘Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.’ Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

And here we are 2,000 years later trying to teach the same. Some things never change, I’m afraid. So many seek to place limits on God. Too many want to think that their way is THE way that God is advancing the Kingdom, or worse, that they’re the only ones doing God’s work.

Hear the words of Moses and Jesus, look around and gives thanks to the environmentalists doing God’s work, to the peacemakers doing God’s work, to the Social Servants doing God’s work, to the teachers, plumbers, nutritionists, administrators, vegans, Republicans, Iranians, women’s rights activists, lawyers, Muslims and others of good will all doing the work of advancing God’s kingdom of justice and mercy and peace.

Catholic theologian, Karl Rahner, introduced the notion of the anonymous Christian wherein he declares that people who might have never heard the Christian Gospel might indeed be saved through Christ. One might even say that just because they weren’t in the room, doesn’t mean they didn’t receive the Spirit! And certainly, at the very least, we might agree with Jesus that whoever is not against us, is for us. It is, after all, by their fruits–either thorns or berries–that you will know the true prophets of God, (MT 7:16-20) regardless of by what name they are known.

For Reflection

Do I sometimes believe that it’s “my way or the highway?”

Am I open to the prophetic voice irrespective of its origin?

Do I listen attentively to all people, even if I don’t agree with them entirely, knowing that there could be a kernel of God’s truth in their message?

Am I a prophetic voice of reason and truth at work and in my home?

Do others hear God when they hear me?

By Deacon Stephen Valgos