Everytime I read something, a news article or write-ups against the Catholic Church, I always felt something deep inside of me being pricked by a sharp needle. I cringed. I felt I’m betrayed. I felt I’m being the one being discriminated against. I come to realize I’m now with one heart with the Church. However, upon further reflection, I come to understand that I feel like this way not because of the Church itself but because of what she is standing for- Christ, who is the Truth, the Way and the Life. In moments like these, I would just console myself with the words of Jesus: ‘Whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did it to me.’ I noticed that when the Church makes a stand for the truth and the gospel values, there are always people out there ready to discredit her claim by throwing ‘dirt and mud’ unto her. It is as if the Church is the worst of all, and all other acts of violence, injustice, discrimination, etc. done by people who are not associated with the Church, would pale in comparison.
Friends, this is a modern persecution. Yet this must not stop us for witnessing our faith in Christ more concretely. In fact, this is a time when we are to stand up for Christ with courage and fidelity. And thank God, for your presence here in this celebration of the Holy Mass. By being here today in union with the Universal Church celebrating the Holy Mass in all places in the world, re-living the one sacrifice of Christ, we are concretely standing up for Christ. We who are here today serving as a sign of hope for Christ and for his Church.
So then, we are to assess our way of discipleship. We are to examine our Christian life. Where is Christ in our journey? Is he at the forefront leading us or we rather prefer to stay away with him because we feel uncomfortable in his presence? How are we as a disciple of Jesus Christ?
Our gospel today provides us a ‘model’ of discipleship. Bartimeaus (the son of Timaeus- so he has no name himself) was blind and begging on the road. We can assume, he must have experienced the worst bullying possible. He must have experienced discrimination everyday. ‘Dirt and mud’ might always be his lot every now and then from the people whose help he relied on. But he has got something that many people around him didn’t have. He has faith in Jesus. He believes that he is the Messiah. ‘Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.’ We are to remember that that the promised Messiah of God is a descendant of David. And Bartimaeus has recognized this. He didn’t say, ‘Jesus, son of Joseph, the carpenter.’ He believes in him, and then he puts his trust in Jesus, that the latter can cure him of his blindness.
So how can Bartimaeus be a model of discipleship? Four things: First, he keeps up his faith in him and expressed it publicly. Even if he was scolded or stopped by people for calling out loud to Jesus, he persisted. This is also our challenge today. There are many people who are trying to persuade us today, some even do it in a very subtle way, to stay away from him, or to criticise his body the Church. But like Bartimaeus, if we don’t let these things stand on our way to Jesus, something good will happen. We will acquire a new vision, a new life even.
Second, He listened to Jesus’ call amidst the noise of the crowd. We can just imagine how noisy it might have been. But his ears are all for Jesus. So he heard him saying: What do you want me to do for you?’ What a beautiful word we can hear from no less than our God himself. We can only hear these words though if we tune in to Jesus’ words frequently. It takes time and we have to make time for it because there are many things that always try distract us from reading the Scriptures, or praying, or just sitting down for thirty-minutes a day before the Blessed Sacrament or before our altars at home. Listening to Jesus reflectively also helps us to sort out what we need and what we want. Bartimeaus needs to see, so he didn’t beat around the bush. He told him directly: ‘Master, let me see again.’ This is a direct, simple and humble example of prayer. And we know, when Jesus heard this simple expression of his faith, he answered his prayer. This stands in contrast with the request of the sons of Zebedee, James and John, two of the close disciples of Jesus, as we have heard in last Sunday’s gospel. Unlike Bartimaeus, they didn’t need a thing. They just wanted to have an assurance that they would be in the privileged position when Jesus reigns. But Jesus knew they only wanted it, so Jesus had to remind them it is not his job to allocate them, but his Father’s.
Third, when he heard the call of Jesus, he let go of his cloak. As a beggar, his cloak might be his only security. It had helped him cover from rain, from colds, from the heat of the sun, and even perhaps used it as his blanket as he slept at night. Jesus is also calling us now. If we hear his voice, we then are to let go of our false security. We know, we are hoarding many things that made us believe our security lies in them. I am just amazed of the many thing people have given to us for our Philippine outreach project. We are filling a room now. And to think that these things are given because they are no longer needed or even wanted, is a real and move to listen to Jesus’ call to let go of our false security.
Fourth, when Bartimeaus regained his sight, he followed Jesus. He didn’t leave and ran to tell the good news to his blind friends. He stayed with him on the road.
If like Bartimaeus, we keep following Jesus and listening to him speaking to us in our daily experiences and in our particular situations, we come to know him more intimately, more personally, more concretely. And if we do this as often as we breathe, then time will come when we feel we are in the same heart with him, when we feel hurt if people say negative things about him and about the Church. Only by following him faithfully that we recognize him as our High Priest who not only understands our weaknesses and knows our sinfulness but also helping us to overcome it and even getting us out of the misery of sin and death. Let’s keep him on our sight as we continue to be a sign of hope, a salt of the earth and the light of the world even if we are discriminated against or even persecuted. Let this be our hope and our prayer. Amen.