Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

Readings: Jer 31:7-9; Ps 126:1-6; Heb 5:1-6; Mk 10:46-52


According to World Health Organization, there are 39 million blind people on the planet. These are the people who wake up every day and stare down life without the help of their eyes. Truthfully, anyone who lives with this disability has an amazing story to tell, but some have achieved incredible things or had incredible things thrust upon them.

Marla Runyan, the first blind athlete in the Olympics was only 9 years old she developed Stargardt’s Disease, a form of macular degeneration that left her blind, but that never stopped her. She went on to win so many titles. By 2001 she won her first of three consecutive 5000 metre National Championships. The blind surfer, Derek Rabelo, was born with congenital glaucoma. However, that didn’t stop him from learning to surf when he was just three years old. “With God, everything is possible,” he said. The blind painter, John Bramblitt, lost his vision when he was 30 years old due to complications from epilepsy. At first, John says he lost hope and was in a deep depression, but then he found an outlet: painting. His art has been sold in over twenty countries and has received much recognition, including the “Most Inspirational Video of 2008″ from YouTube.

But the most inspiring story told of a blind person was that of Helen Keller and the way she dealt with her deafness and blindness. She once wrote an article entitled: “Three Days to See.” In that article she outlined what she would like to see if she were granted just three days of sight. On the first day, she said, she would want to see her friends. On the second day, she would like to be able to look at nature around her. And on the third day, she said, she would like to spend her time – in her home city, New York – watching the busy city and the bustle of work. She concluded with these words: “I who am blind can give one hint to those who see: Use your eyes as if tomorrow you were stricken blind.’

In today’s First Reading, the setting is the long-awaited homecoming of the Israelites from their exile in Babylon. “Shout with Joy for Jacob (Israel, God’s People).” The author never lost trust in God that sometime or somehow we would heal the wounds of his people. The weak, lame, and blind are with the returning exiles. God cares!

The fact that God cares is also God’s word to us now. “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with Joy.”

In the Second Reading, Paul refers again to the Jewish high priest officiating in the temple of Jerusalem. He represents human beings to God by offering gifts and sacrifices. It is stated that Jesus is the high priest of the community and as such appointed by God. Jesus exercises his priesthood in heaven. Constantly referring to his sacrificial death on the cross, he pleads for mercy for all of us.

The Gospel:

Blindness in the 21st century is bad enough – but it was much worse in Jesus’ day. Today a blind person at least has the hope of living a useful life with proper training. Braille opens opportunities for education. Some of the most skilled and creative people in our society are blind. But in first century Palestine blindness meant that you would be subject to abject poverty. You would be reduced to begging for a living. You lived at the mercy and the generosity of others. And unless your particular kind of blindness was self-correcting, there was no hope whatsoever for a cure. The skills that were necessary to cure some forms of blindness were still centuries beyond the medical knowledge of the day. Little wonder then that one of the signs of the coming of the Messiah was that the blind should receive their sight.

When Jesus announced his ministry, he said: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has sent me to recover sight to the blind.”

Jesus with his entourage was heading to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Everyone crowded around the divine “teacher” to hear what this holy Rabbi had to say. Only blind Bartimaeus seemed to “see” the significance of the moment.

Bartimaeus could see: That Jesus was the Christ. When the blind man asked who it was that was coming his way, they replied “Jesus of Nazareth.” Bartemaeus must have heard many stories about Jesus. He believed Jesus to be the Christ. Everything in today’s message will hinge on this truth. Bartimaeus knew that “Christ” would have the power to heal blind eyes. When he cried, “Have mercy on me Jesus, thou Son of David,” he was declaring his faith.

Bartimaeus could see: That this was his only chance. Note that I did not say, “Last Chance.” He had never been given a chance to have his eyes healed before this opportunity came, nor would he after. Jesus is not just a way, a truth, a life. Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life. If he let this moment go, the opportunity to have his blind eyes healed would be forever gone. It is possible to “sin away” your day of grace. It is possible to “harden your heart as in the day of provocation.”

Bartimaeus could see: That the crowd was wrong. The crowd around him rebuked Bartimaeus for calling out to Christ. A few days later, another crowd would be saying, “Crucify him, crucify him.” Bartimaeus would have to stand against the flow of the crowd. He cried the louder.

Bartimaeus could see: That he would have to make a fool of himself in the eyes of the world. Bartimaeus made a decision to become a “fool for Christ.” If you make a decision to come to Christ, others will make fun of you. Are you willing to be a martyr? “All they that live for Christ will suffer persecution.”

Bartimaeus could see: That there was no turning back. When it was told that Christ called for him, Bartimaeus took off his old beggars garment, and left it behind. Our filthy rags of righteousness will not do in the presence of God. This is a picture of repentance. Bartemaeus knew that once he came to Christ, he would never have to be in bondage and beg from the world again.

Bartimaeus could see: The obvious. When Christ asked Bartimaeus, what is it that you would have me to do for you, he replied, “Lord, that I might receive my sight.” This was an obvious answer to an obvious question. Yet, every man without Christ is blind. Few blind souls ever see their need for Christ. Why is it that a lost man does not see his obvious need for Christ? Bartimaeus did.

Bartimaeus could see: That he was born blessed. Throughout the dark days of his life, Bartimaeus must have often wondered, “Why was I even born?” His life was just a matter of surviving from day to day. He was but a beggar on the streets of life.

…….. Bartimaeus was in a sad condition, but the lost sinner is far worse off than he was.

• The lost sinner is blind, he cannot see God.

• He is deaf, he cannot hear God.

• He is a spiritual cripple, he cannot run after God.

• He has withered hands, he cannot work for God.

• He has a defiled mind, he cannot think of God.

• He has a stammering tongue, he cannot talk to God.

• He has a wounded heart, he cannot live for God.

• He is a leper; he is unclean and defiled in the presence of God.

• Worst of all, the lost man is a dead man, Eph. 2:1-3. He cannot sense God, feel God, know God, desire God, love God, or come to God on his own. The lost sinner is in a tragic condition! )

Everything changed the day that Christ passed his way. Bartimaeus knew that in order for Christ to fulfill Bible prophecy, he would have to “heal blind eyes.” He had blind eyes. He could help Christ accomplish the purpose for which he had come into the world. It must have occurred to Bartimaeus, “So this is my purpose in life. This is the reason that I was born blind!”

Not everyone in the generation of Christ would receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but blind Bartimaeus would be among the number of the redeemed. Because of his blind eyes, he came to know Christ.

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Today, God is looking to seek and save that which is lost. Do you qualify? Will you “call upon the name of the Lord to be saved?”

What kind of spiritual blindness can we suffer from?

— We might be blind about our own identity.

— We might have believed things that others have told us about ourselves that are unfair, malicious or untrue and they might have distorted how we see ourselves. We may be blind to the beautiful creation God made us to be and therefore limit the potential we have of living up to it.

— We might have spiritual blindness to what God can really do.

— We might have a small faith and struggle with believing in the power of God. We might feel uncomfortable when the Holy Spirit moves and sceptical about the miraculous.

— We might have a spiritual blindness about how we see others.

— We might be short-sighted – judging people by their outward appearances and therefore restricting how much of Jesus’ love we can show them.

Jesus the “Light of the world” gave sight to the blind! Spiritual blindness is an extremely prevalent reality. However, spiritually blind eyes can still have their sight restored.

Let me shed light on three major reasons for spiritual blindness and then three remedies to conquer this blindness! May Jesus the “Light of the world” dispel the spiritual blindness in our souls!

1. JEALOUSLY: One of the Capital Sins is Jealousy. Jealousy is when you feel bad because somebody else has something that you do not have and when something bad happens to this person you rejoice. Cain killed Abel due to jealousy. Saul tried to kill young David because of envy. Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt due to the jealousy of his brothers. Finally, one of the principal reasons for the condemnation, crucifixion and death of Jesus was the jealousy of some of the Jews. Have you ever given into jealousy in your life? Time to repent!

2. BITTER ANGER: Anger does not fulfill the justice of God. When the passion of anger has gotten control of your life, it is probably best not to speak and react towards others; this could prove catastrophic! We have to learn to cope with our anger and learn techniques to extinguish the fire and calm down.

3. IMPURITY: Without a doubt one of the chief causes of modern spiritual blindness is a rapidly increasing viewing and addiction to pornography! One of the principal reasons why is the easy access to pornography. A half a decade ago, it was available mostly through a magazine or two. However today no matter where one turns he is literally bombarded with impure images: T.V. programs and commercials, Cable, Movies, Magazines, Newspaper advertisements, modern dress apparel, immodest dress in general from Spring till the Autumn Season, and most especially the easy access to Internet— the sources never end! It is like an avalanche that has started and in full force! There is barely anything in the world that militates more fiercely against growth in the spiritual life then giving in to impurity. St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, asserts that impurity causes spiritual blindness and leads even to hating God. Many will reject God, the Church, the reception of the Sacraments because they have become addicts— to one of the tentacles of the ugly octopus of impurity, especially internet porn! May God save us, heal us and restore our sight! (Fr. Ed Broom OVM)

As Jesus healed the blind two thousand years ago, so he is just as powerful today to heal all spiritual maladies and that of course includes spiritual blindness! Our prayer should be: “Lord grant me light to contemplate the beauty of your face now and for all eternity!” Following are three ways that we can use our eyes well so as to glorify God, sanctify our souls and live out the beatitude: “Blessed are the pure of heart for they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8)

1. MEDITATE ON THE WORD OF GOD: What chlorine is to the pool water, the Word of God is to the human mind. If our mind has been contaminated by indecent and impure images they must be dislodged, purified and discarded. One of the most efficacious tools to rid one’s mind of bad images and to restore spiritual sight is the daily reading, meditating and even memorizing of the Word of God. The Psalmist describes the Word of God as a light and lantern for our steps! Jesus is the Word of God and the Light of the World who came to dispel darkness and even blindness!

2. LOOK AT JESUS, CONTEMPLATE THE EUCHARISTIC LORD: When Jesus lived 2000 years ago people could not always see him. When he was in Galilee, He was not at the same time in Jerusalem. In other words, even though Jesus could have been in many places at the same time, he decided to limit his presence to one time and place. Right now we have an extraordinary grace: contact and exposure to the Real Presence of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the most Blessed Sacrament. In all of the Catholic Churches throughout the world Jesus is present in either the Tabernacle or exposed in the Monstrance and sometimes both at the same time! He invites all to come to him: “Come to me all of you who are weary and you will find rest for your souls because my yoke is easy and my burden is light. I am meek and humble of heart.”(Mt. 11:28-30) What a privilege we have right now: to visit Jesus, look at him present in the Blessed Sacrament and to love him with all of our hearts. The Psalmist once again invites us: “Look to the Lord and be radiant with joy.”

3. LOOK AT MARY, CONTEMPLATE THE FACE OF MARY: This is a month of Mary, all of us should form the wonderful habit of praying to Mary every day: the Morning Offering, Angelus, Memorare, Litany, and especially the Holy Rosary. While praying to Mary it is of great help to have before our eyes a beautiful image of Mary’s statue, painting, icon, mural, mosaic, stain-glass window… Prayer is the lifting up of the mind and heart to God. By contemplating a beautiful image of Mary, such as Our Lady of grace, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Arabia, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a transformation takes place in our eyes, mind, heart, soul and even in our body! The scales of our spiritual blindness fall from our interior eyes and we are able to see God and all that refers to God with greater clarity!

Indeed among the many beautiful titles given to Mary, several refer to light: Mary, Star of the Sea; Mary, Morning Star; Mary, Star of Evangelization. Blessed Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic letter on the Rosary, in which he introduced the Mysteries of light, stated that we should strive to contemplate the Face of Jesus through the eyes of Mary.

Let us cure our spiritual blindness by contemplating the beauty of the face of Mary, the “Masterpiece of creation”. (St. Louis de Montfort). The Virgin Mary, “cause of our joy” always brings us back to joy in the Lord, who comes to free us from so many interior and exterior slaveries. (Pope Francis)

Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.

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