HOMILY OF THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR B
READINGS: Jer. 31:7-9, Psalm 126, Heb. 5:1-6, Mark 10:46-52
The Lord has blessed many of us with good eyesight. We don’t have many challenges with our sense of sight. This is so because we have many devices to correct our failing eye sights. There are sophisticated surgeries to counter severe eye defects. Our physical sights are very good these days. Thanks to the gifts of technology and its consistent innovations. What we really need to fix up today is not so much of physical sight but spiritual sight in order to correct spiritual blindness. In the world today there are over 39 Million people that are blind. Worse still, Helen Keller says, “The greatest calamity that can befall people, is not that they should be born blind, but that they should have eyes, yet fail to see.” This is how Jesus says it, “they look but do not see” (Matt. 13:13).
In our first reading, God had lavished his love and mercy on the children of Israel, but they would not see and appreciate the goodness of God. Hence, they failed to respect the covenant that God had with them and that landed them into troubles – EXILES. Jeremiah the mouthpiece of God brings hope to them and asks them to “sing aloud with gladness for Jacob (Israel)” for the Lord has saved the remnant of his people (Israel) –Jer. 31:7. He says that God would lead the people in a straight path so that they shall not stumble –Jer. 31:9. For the people to walk in a straight path without stumbling, they need physical sight but more importantly spiritual sight.
In the second reading, the new converts from Judaism to Christianity would need not just physical sight but spiritual sight for them to remain with Jesus Christ the High Priest according to the Order of Melchizedek. Otherwise, they would want to return to their old religion which made many things difficult for them. The old religion was a religion of law and not so much of grace as explained by St. Paul in Rom. (5:20). The old high priest offered sacrifices of bulls and goats and it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Heb. 9:4).
The Gospel of today presents us with the story of the healing of the blind beggar – Bartimaeus. This man has been sitting by the side of the road begging for alms until he heard that Jesus was passing through Jericho to Jerusalem and he had to cry out aloud for Jesus to heal him. People tried to stop him but he cried even louder the second time – “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! … What do you want me to do for you? … Lord, that I may see.” Remarkably, Bartimaeus received both his physical sight and spiritual sight. Physically, his sight was restored and spiritually he recognised Jesus and left the road side to follow Jesus “on the way.”
As we have said earlier, we don’t have much challenge with our physical sights. What we need urgently is spiritual sight to overcome our spiritual blindness. Spiritual sight is the inner eyes that see everything in the truth and revelations of God. It is manifested in the form of insight (mind), vision (imagination), understanding (heart) and faith (belief system). The example of Bartimaeus is very rich to illustrate spiritual sight in the form of faith. Jesus asks him “what do you want me to do for you?” and his faith response is: “Master, let me receive my sight” (Mark 10:51). Happily, he received both physical sight and spiritual sight. He was liberated from his world of darkness to the world of light.
However, in our world today we have trio blindness: physical blindness, spiritual blindness, and intellectual blindness.
SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS: This is the manifestation of lack of faith and trust in God. Somebody who is spiritually blind does not believe in the existence of God – “The fool says in his heart there is no God” (Ps. 14:1). Since he/she does not believe in God and His creation, it follows that he does not trust in divine providence. Such people equally do not recognise the Church, her origin, mandate and mission.
The Church need spiritual sight to choose men as priests according to the second reading (Heb. 5:4). The Church needs spiritual sight to take decisions on behalf of Christ: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:18-19). If we must do the will of God, and follow Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), then we need spiritual sight. We need to see clearly. Many of us today are spiritually blind to the teachings of Jesus and His Church. There are some Catholics that do not see the difference between the Catholic Church and the Separated Brethren Movements. Did Jesus not pray for the unity of Christian in John 17:20-21? Many in the name of ecumenism have misled brothers and sisters to other Movements called churches. Some are board members of other so called churches and they still come to the Catholic Church to receive Holy Communion even in the sin of apostasy and schism (1Cor. 1:10). Let us say like Bartimaeus: “Master, let me receive my sight.”
A lot of us are spiritually blind to our weaknesses and sins. Many today cannot make a distinction between mortal sin and venial sin nor sin and virtue. The sense of sin and shame is death. We have failed to see evil in ourselves. For example, what have you to say about a Catholic who lives in concubinage and receives Holy Communion? Catholics who promote and carry out abortion? We steal and say we have misappropriated funds, we have diverted funds. We tell a lot of lies and say we have told petty lies or holy or white lies. All these are as a result of spiritual blindness.
A lot of us are blind to the needs of others. Thus, we lack compassion. No inner eyes to feel the needs of our neighbours. We are clouded with abundant goods but we cannot see the insufficiency of others and reach out to them.
The Church healing for spiritual blindness is evangelization and catechesis. Let us say like Bartimaeus: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! … What do you want me to do for you? … Lord, that I may see.”
INTELLECTUAL BLINDNESS: The signs of intellectual blindness are ignorance – “My people perish for want of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6), stark illiteracy and lack of information. There is blindness of leaders who don’t see through policies that would breed injustice, wickedness and hardship. We are blind to traditional societal values of hard work, sexual discipline, compassion, peace and order. Hence we promote the cutting of corners to get to the top of life. According to Fulton Sheen, we give new labels to old errors. The Church handles cases of intellectual blindness through education. Let us say like Bartimaeus: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! … What do you want me to do for you? … Lord, that I may see.”
In conclusion, Bartimaeus has become our model of discipleship. His life changed for good because of his faith in Jesus and his persistence. People tried to stop him but he insisted he must reach out to Jesus. We have many forms of blindness and we need to say like Bartimaeus: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! … What do you want me to do for you? … Lord, that I may see.”