Homily for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2009
In my high school years it was some humiliation for me to be the least good at football and cricket. Often I was one of the last to be picked on a football team. Humiliation even though I was not any good at football anyway. So at the same time I was relieved if I did not get chosen as I feared being tackled! But the desire to be part of the action produced a tension in my school life. As I look back on that experience it was a pretty good lesson in life. It prodded me to think about what my motivation for doing things was. I had to look elsewhere for a sense of my own worth. We all have our limitations both genetically and environmentally. Somehow, it is in recognising them that we can discover some wisdom, perhaps that we are not self sufficient. Either that or we get a chip on our shoulder believing that the world owes us a living.
I have been very conscious lately that my view of reality is very much shaped by the filtering that goes on through all the media, TV, Radio, internet, etc. Those media have an enormous capacity to capture our emotions and imaginations. They surround us with images and information and are all pervasive. One could say that we almost drown in the volume of it. At the same time, for all the quantity of information it does give a very limited view of the world and of life. We can, nevertheless, mistake it for the truth and reality. In that environment retaining confidence in one's own sense of what is real and important can be very difficult. Sometimes we are inclined to let it be. It is too difficult to think otherwise. It is this environment that teaches children both customs and values without them even knowing it and in-spite of parents and teachers to do otherwise. In other words we are not as in control of our lives or as free as we think are or would like.
So this is why when we speak of something like "original sin" we are not talking of personal sin as such. Instead, it describes for us the flawed people we are and the shape of the world into which we are born. It is a shape that is the result of the personal sins of individuals throughout history and the corporate sins of whole societies, communities and families.
This state of blindness into which we are born is so beautifully described for us in this story of the blind man Bartimaeus. He was blind. He was a beggar. He had little of his own. He was shunned by a society which regarded such disability as a punishment for sin. He was an outsider. Genetically and socially he does not have much going for him. He is dependant on passers by for his survival. Jesus is on the last leg of his long journey to Jerusalem which began right up north near Caesaria Philippi. He as about to start on the 27k climb from Jericho, 258m below sea level in the rift valley near the dead sea, up to Jerusalem, 730m above sea level. He is close to the climax of his mission which ends on Calvary.
Hearing it was Jesus passing by Bartimaeus cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Son of David is a messianic title. When Jesus does enter Jerusalem a bit later riding on a colt the crowds will again welcome him as messiah. Jesus calls Bartimaeus to him and asks the same question he asked of James and John as we heard last week, "What do you want me to do for you?" Here however is someone whose request is not a selfish one. James and John demonstrated their continuing spiritual blindness. Here, Bartimaeus' response speaks of a faith and willingness to give up all to follow Jesus. Even though he is physically blind he has the eyes of faith. He threw off his cloak and eagerly came to Jesus. Even what he had he was prepared to throw away. Almost naked he pleaded, "My teacher, let me see again." He certainly received his physical sight but at a deeper level he was confirmed in his faith in Jesus. So Jesus can say to him, "Go; your faith has made you well" (Mark 10:52).
How do we throw off everything that hinders us from wholly loving God and neighbour? How do we become free from all those things and influences which hem us in and strip us of our freedom? In prayer above all we can see beyond all the limitations we have experienced to the God who, like Jesus did for Bartimaeus, calls us to him. And together with all his disciples we follow him. In our prayer at this Mass may we hear Jesus say those healing words to us for all our limitations and failures: "Go; your faith has made you well."