Eyes to Recognize and Revere Christ with the Love we had at First, 33rd Monday (II), November 17, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Monday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary
November 17, 2014
Rev 1:1-4.2:1-5, Ps 1, Lk 18:35-43

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in today’s homily: 

  • On Saturday Jesus gave us the parable of the importune woman bothering the unjust judge in order to convey to us the necessity of “praying always without losing heart.” Today we encounter the living illustration of what he was teaching in the blind man by the side of the road whom St. Mark in his version of the same scene identifies as Bartimaeus.
  • Like rabbis were accustomed to do on the triennial pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the major feasts, Jesus was teaching the crowds along the journey. Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging. He heard the commotion of the crowd and asked what was happening. Upon hearing that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he immediately began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” He had doubtless heard of Jesus’ reputation for working miracles to the north in Galilee and was responding in faith. The fact that he called him “Son of David” was a sign he believed Jesus was the Messiah. But his crying out for Jesus was annoying those who were trying to hear Jesus’ teaching. So the first people in the group rebuked him and told him to shut his trap. But that only led him to cry out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!” The word St. Luke uses here means basically an animal cry, something coming deep from his woundedness.
  • Jesus stopped and ordered that Bartimaeus be brought to him. For Jesus caring for this man was more important than what he was teaching at that moment. Likely, if St. Luke’s account was chronological, Jesus had been talking about persistent and humble prayer, persistence in the prayer of the importune widow and humility in the parable of the publican and the pharisee praying in the Temple. Jesus was about to show how God responds to such a prayer! Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?,” and Bartimaeus said, “Lord, please let me see!” To some degree, Bartimaeus was already seeing by faith but he wanted to see Jesus with physical eyes so that he would be able to do exactly what he did once cured, to “follow him, giving glory to God.” Jesus replied, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”
  • This cry of Bartimaeus is one of the most beautiful and frequent Christian aspirations: Domine, ut videam!, “Lord, I want to see.” It’s a beautiful response to Jesus’ perennial question to us in prayer, “What do you want me to do for you?” If Jesus were to ask many of us that question, we might waste his attention on lesser things, asking for him to return us to the shape we were in at 25, or to resolve a particular issue, or other relatively small stuff. Every day, however, we should ask the Lord for the gift to see, for the grace to see things as they really are, the way he sees them. We should beseech the grace to see him and to see ourselves aright. We should ask for the grace to recognize him in the Holy Eucharist, in Confession, in prayer, in others, in the various events of the day, and especially in the beatific vision. Today we ask him with Bartimaeus to give us the grace of real vision.
  • In the first reading today, from the beginning of the Book of Revelation which will guide us until the end of this liturgical year a week from Saturday, the Lord seeks to “un-veil” or “reveal” the way things really are behind the scenes. St. John tells us that in this book he was “reporting what he saw” as Jesus allowed him to glimpse various of the things of heaven and various of the ways which which Jesus was looking on the Christians of the time and every time. The book of Revelation is a response of God to the Church’s constant cry, “Lord, we want to see.” In today’s passage and tomorrow, we get what the Lord was seeing in the seven Churches of the diaspora for whom St. John was writing the book. Today we get the first of the seven Churches, Ephesus, the one that was in the best condition. Tomorrow, we’ll get the last two Churches, Sardis and Laodicea, the two that were in the worst condition. I would encourage you to read Jesus’ words to the other four Churches in the middle — Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira and Philadelphia — on your own. As we see what Jesus sees in these Churches, it would also be very good for us to ask what Jesus would see in our parish and in each of us, whether he would be praising us or reproving us for what he says to these ancient Churches during a time of persecution.
  • Jesus says that he sees in the Church of Ephesus much deserving of praise. “I know your works, your labor and your endurance,” he says. They were bearing fruit for the Gospel, they were striving to live the faith, and they were enduring faithfully the trials of many persecutions. He said, “You cannot tolerate the wicked.” We’re called to love even our enemies and pray for our persecutors, but we’re not asked to “tolerate the wicked” but to reject their wickedness and pray for their conversion, something that would do all of us good to remember during this time in which people proclaim “tolerance” and mean by it that we look the other way on their sinfulness, something that Jesus himself never did and we as his followers can’t do either. One wickedness they couldn’t tolerate was false prophets. Jesus said, “You have tested those who call themselves Apostles but are not, and discovered that they are impostors.” They knew the faith well enough that they were able to recognize and reject those who were preaching another Gospel than the one that they had received. Today that, too, is a very important skill, to be able to discriminate between those who are really announcing God’s word and those who are saying what people want to hear for the preacher’s aggrandizement. Jesus finishes the praise by saying, “You have endurance and have suffered for my name and have not grown weary.” This was a Church of martyrs, who were seeking to keep their eyes on Christ even in the midst of tears. But Jesus had one fraternal correction. “I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first.” Yes, they were enduring. Yes, they were discerning. Yes, they were working. But they were no longer doing it with the passion, with the love, with which they had begun. Their sufferings had hardened them. Now they were living by fidelity, but loyalty, by duty, but not by love to the same degree. “Realize how far you have fallen,” Jesus said. St. Paul had told the Corinthians that if they were to hand over their body to the torturers as martyrs but didn’t do so out of love, they would gain nothing. Jesus was essentially saying that despite all their works and good deeds, they had fallen very far because they were no longer living by that first love, that love at the beginning, that prior love, that had characterized and ought always to characterize the Christian faith. They were lacking that love for God and that love for others that had distinguished them. “Repent and do the works you did at first,” Jesus said, calling them to works of piety and works of charity. Jesus was saying that it’s not enough for us to be faithful. He wants faith working through love for God and neighbor. To lose that is to lose much! Jesus was calling them to conversion, to recover that first love. He was helping them to see who they really are so that they, like Bartimaeus, might cry out “Son of David, have mercy!,” and begin to see him more in the midst of their afflictions and to see him more in the needy and begin to love him with that passionate love they had at the start.
  • These thoughts about seeing Christ and loving him passionately in prayer and in neighbor are a fitting way to understand the life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) whose feast the Church celebrates today. She was the daughter of the King of Hungary and when she was four she was betrothed to Louis, the son of the Landgrave of Thuringia. She was raised with him for the next 10 years until the marriage, when she was 14 and he 21. Louis always supported St. Elizabeth’s piety and charity. In the opening prayer of the Mass, we noted that by God’s grace, Elizabeth was able to “recognize and revere Christ in her neighbor,” and because of that capacity to see and to love Jesus with passion, she is truly one of the most outstanding examples of charity in history. During a severe famine, she exhausted her treasure and distributed all her own store of corn to the poor. She build a hospital at the foot of the tall, rocky promontory on which the Wartburg Castle was built so that the infirm and weak wouldn’t have to climb it. She fed them with her own hands — as well as 900 others every day — made their beds and cared for them in so many other ways. She provided for orphans and helpless children. When many criticized her material benefactions as being excessive, her husband said that her charities would bring upon the whole realm divine blessings. But even he reached his limit once when Elizabeth brought a leper to the castle and had him sleep in their protected quarters as a type of quarantine. He rushed into the bedroom to drag away all of the bedclothes and other things that might carry the dreaded disease, but as he was doing so, he recognized that the leper had stigmata. Through his wife, he learned to recognize and revere Christ, to see and love him, in his neighbor, including the most revolting.
  • Today at this Mass, through St. Elizabeth’s intercession, we ask the Lord with Bartimaeus for the grace to  see so that, looking at things with the eyes of faith, we may recognize and revere Him with that love we had at first. Christ is passing by today just like he did in Jericho. He is passing by in the Sacred Host and then in our sacred neighbor.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 RV 1:1-4; 2:1-5

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him,
to show his servants what must happen soon.
He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
who gives witness to the word of God
and to the testimony of Jesus Christ by reporting what he saw.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud
and blessed are those who listen to this prophetic message
and heed what is written in it, for the appointed time is near.John, to the seven churches in Asia: grace to you and peace
from him who is and who was and who is to come,
and from the seven spirits before his throne.I heard the Lord saying to me:
“To the angel of the Church in Ephesus, write this:“‘The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand
and walks in the midst of the seven gold lampstands says this:
“I know your works, your labor, and your endurance,
and that you cannot tolerate the wicked;
you have tested those who call themselves Apostles but are not,
and discovered that they are impostors.
Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name,
and you have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you:
you have lost the love you had at first.
Realize how far you have fallen.
Repent, and do the works you did at first.
Otherwise, I will come to you
and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”’”

Responsorial Psalm PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6

R. (Rev. 2:17) Those who are victorious I will feed from the tree of life.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Those who are victorious I will feed from the tree of life.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Those who are victorious I will feed from the tree of life.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Those who are victorious I will feed from the tree of life.

Gospel LK 18:35-43

As Jesus approached Jericho
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging,
and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.
They told him,
“Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
The people walking in front rebuked him,
telling him to be silent,
but he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me!”
Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him;
and when he came near, Jesus asked him,
“What do you want me to do for you?”
He replied, “Lord, please let me see.”
Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”
He immediately received his sight
and followed him, giving glory to God.
When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.