Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Philip Neri
May 26, 2016
1 Pet 2:2-5, Ps 100, Mk 10:46-52
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- We come today to one of the most beautiful Gospel scenes we will encounter in this Year of Mercy, when Jesus meets a blind man who cries out to him, “Have pity on me!” But this scene is not just about an historical rendezvous in ancient Jericho. It also highlights several elements of the path by which Jesus seeks to lead each of us. In today’s first reading, St. Peter, who was present with Jesus when he restored to Bartimaeus his sight, reminds the Christians in the Asian diaspora that they were all once blind, because God “called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Once, he said, “you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.” That is what allowed them to become “living stones” built on Christ the rejected living Cornerstone. That is what enabled them to become a “spiritual house,” a “holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own,” “God’s people.” That’s what permitted them to do “good works and glorify God.” So let us enter into the scene of Jesus and Bartimaeus, doing a lectio divina on the text, because through it we’ll be able to see so many elements of how the Lord acts in our lives and in the lives of others, so that we may better offer ourselves today as a holy priest and glorify God with the prayer of grateful praise:
- “As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd” — Jericho is the lowest place on earth, more below sea level than any other location. Jesus was passing through the depths of the human experience in order to ascend the 15 mile road up hill that leads to Jerusalem, where he would suffer and died to lift us up. He was showing us that there’s no depth to which he won’t descend for us. And he has, in fact, kenotically bent down for us so many times in life, like he did in today’s Gospel.
- “Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road side begging” — Bartimaeus was not born blind, but had become blind over the course of time. We see that in the verb he uses later — anablepo — asking Jesus in the Greek to “see again.” But he hadn’t just lost his sight. To some degree, he had lost the dignity he would have had. He was sitting by the road side begging. He could not rely on himself anymore. He needed help. He had hit rock bottom. He was in the depth of the valley of darkness in the lowest place on earth. But it was precisely in that spiritual poverty that Jesus would come to meet him, as many times he has likewise come to us.
- “On hearing that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by” — Not coincidentally at all, so many times in our life Jesus comes into our life right when we need him most, right when we’re at our weakest and most desperate. But he “passes by.” He doesn’t intrude. He draws near but he still wants to engage our freedom, rather than force himself and his love upon us. We’ve got to be ready to go out from where we are — whether our “comfort zones” or our self-imposed prisons, to encounter him.
- “He began to cry out, ‘Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!’” — Bartimaeus didn’t cry out for alms, which would have been small. He didn’t cry out at that point for a miracle. He cried out simply for mercy. 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. The word St. Luke uses for crying out means basically an animal cry, something coming deep from his woundedness. And his prayer would be answered. How often we, too, meet Jesus in his mercy, in the Divine Physician’s coming to heal us in our woundedness. For us as priests and religious, it’s key especially in this Jubilee of Mercy to grasp that God calls us not because of our worthiness, but calls us in his mercy, in response to our pleas for him who is Mercy Incarnate.
- Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” — Like rabbis were accustomed to do on all their pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the major feasts, Jesus was teaching the crowds along the journey. But when he heard Bartimaeus’ pleas, he stopped in his tracks 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, because he was about to show the Gospel rather than just verbally describe it. He was also going to show how he responds to persistent prayer. So many times in our life as well, when Jesus was passing by us waiting for us to call upon him, he stopped and gave us all we needed.
- They said to Bartimaeus, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” — What a beautiful expression, something that should be part of our vocabulary with everyone in the Church! “Take courage, get up, Jesus is calling you.” It would have been very easy for Jesus to come to meet Bartimaeus exactly where he was begging. But Jesus loved him too much and understands the human heart too well to do that. Instead he drew near, he got close, but then he had Bartimaeus get up to come to him, to exercise Bartimaeus’ freedom, to stoke his desire, to give him greater participation in the miracle Jesus himself was about to accomplish. It takes courage to get up and leave what’s familiar, perhaps what’s safe and secure, to respond to the Lord. Bartimaeus had that courage and did. Similarly, on many occasions we needed a similar courage to respond to the Lord. It might have been getting up and going to the chapel rather than remaining in our room. It may have been helping out with some form of charity rather than remaining isolated. But when Jesus calls he always challenges us to move. He never says to us, “Stay exactly where you are. Don’t budge an inch.” Rather he, who is always on the move, he who is always passing by waiting for an invitation, perpetually invites us to get up from where we are and follow him. That’s the fundamental moment of the vocational call.
- “He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus” — We see two crucial elements here in the response of Bartimaeus that are meant to be part of every vocation story, Bartimaeus’, ours and others’. The first is that Bartimaeus “threw aside his cloak.” The cloak was his outer garment that kept him warm at night. It was in a sense his security blanket. It was quite valuable to him and part of his life. But he was intentionally embracing a new life and establishing a new security. He left it behind, which is not just a fact but an important symbol of how he was thinking more about clinging to Jesus and the new life for which he was hoping than clinging to the past. The second element is he “sprang up.” Even though he was blind, he got up immediately. He raced to respond to his being called by the Lord. Unlike the excuse makers in other sections of the Gospel who said that they would follow Jesus after they had buried their father (who might die three decades later), inspected their oxen, enjoyed their honeymoon, etc., Bartimaeus responded with alacrity. That’s key to understanding the greatness of the call Christ gives to come to him, something we can be grateful for having heard and having responded to, we pray, with similar immediacy. And even if we debated it for a long time, the Lord continues to pass by and call, every time he gives us a new assignment, every time he summons us to go out to the peripheries, every time he calls us on a sick call at night. May we spring up from our desk, from our bed, from our back yard, and follow him where he’s leading!
- “What do you want me to do for you?” — Jesus asks us this question always with the love of the most generous person who has ever existed. What do you want? What do you seek? He wants us to examine our desires and ask for the big stuff, the most important. We’ve been made ultimately to want him. Bartimaeus didn’t ask for alms, because he wanted far more. Likewise Jesus, each time we meet him, at the beginning of the day in the Morning Offering, in our Holy Hour, at the altar, in the Confessional, in the disguise of the poor, asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” On some level it’s we who should be saying to the Lord in obedience, “What do you want me to do for you, Lord?”, but at an even deeper level it’s he who asks us, because he deeply desires our happiness. Our vocation begins with Jesus’ asking us what we want from him, and what we ultimately want is his help so that we might do what would please him most, because that is what would be us most deeply.
- “Master, I want to see.” — The Latin words for this have become a very popular Christian aspiration, “Domine, ut videam!” Bartimaeus says, “I want to see! I want to live in the light. I want to see things as they really are. I want to see you!” The verb used here in Greek is “I want to see again.” He wants to live anew in the light. He knows what he lost and he knows in whom he has placed his hope to rediscover it. To say to Jesus, “I want to see!,” is not just to turn to a healer and ask him to restore his vision. It’s to say at a deeper level I want to live in your vision. St. John would write in his Gospel, which we have for today’s Gospel verse, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life.” That’s the gift for which Bartimaeus was begging. Likewise with us, when the Lord asks what we want, we similarly want to see. We want to see Jesus in prayer. We want to see Jesus in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. We want to see Jesus in others, in the faces of those we love, in the faces of those we find so difficult to love. We want to see Jesus behind the distressing masks of the poor, the sick, the lonely, the homeless, the abandoned, the blind. We want to behold Christ’s face in the beauties of creation. We want to see him behind each of the commandments, teaching us how to love. We want the eyes to see his will in our daily life, in the present and for the future. Ultimately we want to see him forever face-to-face in heaven, smiling on us with love. But so often we’re blinded. Sin blinds us. Worries blind us. Pain and suffering blind us. Hatred and prejudices blind us. The inability to forgive robs us of our sight. Others, including those we love, can sometimes get in the way and remove our line of vision. Today, the Lord comes to us and asks us, as he asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Today we respond, each in our individual circumstances, “Lord, I want to see!,” begging him to take out whatever planks are in our eyes so that we may see him clearly and have the chance to live with him in the light.
- “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” — Jesus says two very beautiful things to him upon healing him. The first is about the greater miracle than the healing of his physical sight. “Your faith has saved you!” The Lord not only gave him his wish to see but heard his initial cry to “have mercy” on him, and Jesus’ generosity far outdid Bartimaeus’ imagination to ask. Faith in response to God leads to salvation, and even though Bartimaeus didn’t dare ask for that, God gave it. And likewise in response to our bold trust in him, in response to our leaving our stuff behind and hustling toward him, in response to our sincerely telling him what we want, God responds by giving himself to us and granting us far more than we had implored. The second thing we see in this scene is Jesus continues to engage Bartimaeus’ vocational freedom. He says, “Go your way!” In other words, he was giving him the chance to choose what to do with his sight. He wasn’t going to make him an indentured servant for the rest of his life, paying off the debt of the Jesus’ miraculous spiritual optometry. No, Jesus had given without a quid pro quo and left Bartimaeus free to choose his path. That’s what makes how he used it so much more relevant. Likewise Jesus always leaves us free so that we can use our freedom to choose. And that’s a choice he’s asking us to make every day, hoping that we will in fact choose the one who at every instant chooses us. “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you!,” Jesus reminds us, but in response to that divine election, he leaves us free to choose him in love, to respond to his invitation and proposal.
- “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way” — Bartimaeus used his freedom to follow Jesus. He left the depth of Jericho behind and followed him up to Jerusalem, he followed him on Palm Sunday, he followed him on the Way of the Cross, he followed him. And St. Luke comments, “He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God, and when they saw this, all the people gave praise to God” (Lk 18:43). He spent the rest of his life, it seems, glorifying God in such a way that others joined him in that divine praise. The end of our vocational story is a similar glorification of God, hoping that our example will be contagious. This doxological sequela is what the Christian life is all about!
- It’s important for us to do such a vocational lectio divina during this Jubilee of Mercy, full of gratitude to God, recognizing that here in New York, just like so many times in our past, Jesus is passing by and calling us anew, asking us what we want, giving himself in response, offering us salvations, and engaging our freedom to follow him all the way to the celestial altar. But in this Jubilee Year, it’s not enough to stop at our vocational story and how it pertains to our discipleship. It would extend to our apostolate, to our participation in the New Evangelization. Back in 2012, Pope-emeritus Benedict used today’s Gospel of Bartimaeus to describe the context of the New Evangelization and indicate what we need to do to help the Bartimaeuses of our day encounter Christ as he is passing by. He did so in his homily that concluded the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization. This is a profound way to look at this passage.
- “The miracle of the healing of blind Bartimaeus,” Pope Benedict said, “comes at a significant point in the structure of Saint Mark’s Gospel. It is situated at the end of the section on the ‘journey to Jerusalem,’ that is, Jesus’ last pilgrimage to the Holy City, for the Passover, in which he knows that his passion, death and resurrection await him. In order to ascend to Jerusalem from the Jordan valley, Jesus passes through Jericho, and the meeting with Bartimaeus occurs as he leaves the city – in the evangelist’s words, ‘as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude’ (10:46). This is the multitude that soon afterwards would acclaim Jesus as Messiah on his entry into Jerusalem. Sitting and begging by the side of the road was Bartimaeus, whose name means ‘son of Timaeus,’ as the evangelist tells us.” I want to stop for a second on the name St. Mark gives the blind man. He in essence repeats himself, saying first his name is Bar-Timaeus, which means in Aramaic, ‘Son of Timaeus.’ Then he says in Greek, ‘The Son of Timaeus.’ While it’s possible that he was just translation the Aramaic name into Greek, but St. Mark isn’t accustomed to doing that with other names. One of the things that is likely at work is that he was stressing something about this blind man’s situation that the play on words among the two languages elucidates. In Aramaic, the root tame means defilement; in Greek the root time means “honor.” So what various scholars think is going on is showing Bartimaeus’ fall. He was a son of someone of honor — Timaeus — but he had become a son of defilement. He should have been living with honor but now was living in shame. Hence Jesus was going to be restoring not just his sight but his name and personal dignity.
- Let’s return to Pope Benedict’s commentary. He says, “The whole of Mark’s Gospel is a journey of faith, which develops gradually under Jesus’ tutelage. The disciples are the first actors on this journey of discovery, but there are also other characters who play an important role, and Bartimaeus is one of them. His is the last miraculous healing that Jesus performs before his passion, and it is no accident that it should be that of a blind person, someone whose eyes have lost the light. We know from other texts too that the state of blindness has great significance in the Gospels. It represents man who needs God’s light, the light of faith, if he is to know reality truly and to walk the path of life. It is essential to acknowledge one’s blindness, one’s need for this light, otherwise one could remain blind for ever (cf. Jn 9:39-41) Bartimaeus, then, at that strategic point of Mark’s account, is presented as a model. He was not blind from birth, but he lost his sight. He represents man who has lost the light and knows it, but has not lost hope: he knows how to seize the opportunity to encounter Jesus and he entrusts himself to him for healing. Indeed, when he hears that the Master is passing along the road, he cries out: ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ (Mk 10:47), and he repeats it even louder (v. 48). And when Jesus calls him and asks what he wants from him, he replies: ‘Master, let me receive my sight!’ (v. 51). Bartimaeus represents man aware of his pain and crying out to the Lord, confident of being healed. His simple and sincere plea is exemplary, and indeed — like that of the publican in the Temple: ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner’ (Lk 18:13) — it has found its way into the tradition of Christian prayer. In the encounter with Christ, lived with faith, Bartimaeus regains the light he had lost, and with it the fullness of his dignity: he gets back onto his feet and resumes the journey, which from that moment has a guide, Jesus, and a path, the same that Jesus is travelling. The evangelist tells us nothing more about Bartimaeus, but in him he shows us what discipleship is: following Jesus ‘along the way’ (v. 52), in the light of faith.”
- But then Pope Benedict, learning from his great intellectual mentor St. Augustine, picks up on what I alluded to before about Bartimaeus’ fall from sight and grace and what that means for the new evangelization. Pope Benedict says, “Saint Augustine, in one of his writings, makes a striking comment about the figure of Bartimaeus, which can be interesting and important for us today. He reflects on the fact that in this case Mark indicates not only the name of the person who is healed, but also the name of his father, and he concludes that ‘Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, had fallen from some position of great prosperity, and was now regarded as an object of the most notorious and the most remarkable wretchedness, because, in addition to being blind, he had also to sit begging. And this is also the reason, then, why Mark has chosen to mention only the one whose restoration to sight acquired for the miracle a fame as widespread as was the notoriety which the man’s misfortune itself had gained’ (On the Consensus of the Evangelists, 2, 65, 125: PL 34, 1138). This interpretation, that Bartimaeus was a man who had fallen from a condition of ‘great prosperity,’ causes us to think. It invites us to reflect on the fact that our lives contain precious riches that we can lose, and I am not speaking of material riches here. From this perspective, Bartimaeus could represent those who live in regions that were evangelized long ago, where the light of faith has grown dim and people have drifted away from God, no longer considering him relevant for their lives. These people have therefore lost a precious treasure, they have “fallen” from a lofty dignity– not financially or in terms of earthly power, but in a Christian sense – their lives have lost a secure and sound direction and they have become, often unconsciously, beggars for the meaning of existence. They are the many in need of a new evangelization, that is, a new encounter with Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1), who can open their eyes afresh and teach them the path. … This biblical passage has something particular to say to us as we grapple with the urgent need to proclaim Christ anew in places where the light of faith has been weakened, in places where the fire of God is more like smouldering cinders, crying out to be stirred up, so that they can become a living flame that gives light and heat to the whole house.”
- Pope Benedict concluded his homily by saying something about the new evangelists and our relationship to the Bartimaeuses we will encounter and to whom we hope to bring Christ’s healing and light. “Dear brothers and sisters, Bartimaeus, on regaining his sight from Jesus, joined the crowd of disciples, which must certainly have included others like him, who had been healed by the Master. New evangelizers are like that: people who have had the experience of being healed by God, through Jesus Christ. And characteristic of them all is a joyful heart that cries out with the Psalmist: ‘What marvels the Lord worked for us: indeed we were glad’” (Ps 125:3). So the present culture of the west is like ancient Jericho and there are many blind men and women who are crying out for meaning and mercy, perhaps without explicitly acknowledging it. How are we supposed to respond to that phenomenon?
- We can learn a great deal from the great saint we celebrate today, whom, if I had my way, I would name the Patron Saint of the New Evangelization. When Philip Neri arrived in Rome in 1533 as an 18 year-old layman, the eternal city was in multiple levels of devastation. Most of the people were still in trauma from Charles V’s brutal ransacking of the city in 1527. The Renaissance had led to the rediscovery of much of pagan literature and with it, the intellectual and cultured classes had readopted pagan rituals and practices. The Church was in almost total disarray. Several of the Renaissance popes lived more in disgrace than grace. Cardinals were appointed not because of their holiness or sacred leadership but because of their bank accounts and bloodlines. Many pastors, desiring to live leisurely, subcontracted the care of souls to those who were unfit. The challenges that confronted Philip would make the serious issues we face today — the residue of so much bloodshed, two world wars, the sexual revolution, a distorted notion of freedom, the redefinition of marriage — seem comparatively almost idyllic. Yet, by his death in 1595, this vast metropolis had, to a large degree, returned not just to the practice of the faith but to fervent practice of the faith. What did St. Philip do to help turn it around? What can we learn from him to help us in our task of re-evangelization today? I’d like to mention seven elements.
- The first is personal holiness. When Philip arrived in Rome, he got a job as a tutor of two young boys that provided a room as well as a daily fare of bread, water and few olives. Philip spent most of his time in prayer and study, trying to conform his heart to the Lord’s. He begged God to give him what he needed. God didn’t let him down. On the vigil of Pentecost in 1544, when he was 28, as he was in the catacombs imploring the Holy Spirit to give him the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), he saw the third person of the Trinity take on the appearance of a ball of fire that entered his mouth, descended to his heart and caused an explosion of heat and love that an autopsy later demonstrated had broken outward two of his ribs and almost doubled the size of his heart. St. Paul once wrote to the Romans, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us,” and that was literally true for St. Philip. For the rest of his life, the fire burned both spiritually and physically, so that no matter how cold outside he needed to have the windows open. People could hear his heart beating across Churches. He became a living example of each of the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-mastery. His docility to what God the Holy Spirit wanted to do in him and through him not only led to his becoming one of the greatest saints of all time but also to his helping vast multitudes respond to the sanctifying work of the same Holy Spirit. In the Collect beginning this Mass we begged for the same miraculous transformation: “O God, who never cease to bestow the glory of holiness on the faithful servants you raise up for yourself, graciously grant that the Holy Spirit may kindle in us that fire with which he wonderfully filled the heart of St. Philip Neri.” We’re asking for a heart transplant, so that we might live with a heart like St. Philip’s. That’s the heart of the new evangelization.
- The second element was cheerful friendship. Philip would go up to people on the streets, joke and laugh with them, win them over by his jovial goodness and ask, “Brothers, when are we going to start to do good?” Rather than preaching the Gospel at them, he was incarnating the joy of the good news for them, which inspired them to seek to do good alongside him. He planted a seed and let God do the watering. People liked Philip, because he knew how to have a good time. He was the quintessential exemplar of proposing not imposing the faith on people, because he was supremely confident that the faith was a proposal few could really resist when they saw the joy of it lived out. He started with natural goodness and tried to draw people toward spiritual greatness. Pope Francis wrote in his letter for St. Philip’s 500th anniversary of his birth last year, that the way he approached his neighbor, “witnessing to all the love and mercy of the Lord, can constitute a valid example for bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful. From his first years in Rome, he exercised an apostolate of personal relation and friendship, which is the privileged way to open others up to encounter Jesus and the Gospel. As his biographer attests, ‘He approached this one and that one on the fly and soon everyone became his friends.’ He loved spontaneity, he shunned phoniness and formality, he chose the funniest means to educate others in the Christian virtues while at the same time proposing a healthy discipline to help the will welcome Christ in the concrete aspects of one’s life. His profound conviction was that the way of holiness if founded on the grace of an encounter with the Lord, accessible to everyone, of whatever state or condition, who welcomes Jesus with the amazement of children.”
- The natural goodness that he evinced and called upon was the third element of his missionary paradigm. He invited his new friends to help him in caring for the sick. They would volunteer each day as orderlies in hospitals, cleaning and changing patients, feeding them, and often preparing them for death. Medical care and sanitation are still problems in Italian public hospitals today; they were little more than germ factories in the 16th century. Philip and his friends, however, brought the Good Samaritan’s love to those whom few in society were willing to care for. And that started to transform all those who did it.
- The fourth element was what we’d call today adult education of the laity. Philip would get all his friends together for brief talks in his apartment on the lives of the saints and martyrs, on Church history, and on various applications of the faith to daily life. He would give many of the talks himself — which created a stir since he was at the time a layman — and invite others whom he thought capable to do the same. Later, these would develop into what he called the little Oratory, where everyone from the poor and illiterate to cardinals and Rome’s rich, famous and cultured would sit side-by-side. He equipped people for the mission Christ had given them and showed the enthusiasm that we should have for the truths of the faith, for the way things really are. People are made for the truth and Philip acted on that knowledge. Pope Francis, in his letter wrote, “From his fervent experience of communion with the Lord Jesus the Oratory was born, characterized by an intense and joy-filled spiritual life of prayer, hearing and conversation about the Word of God, preparation to receive worthily the Sacraments, formation to the Christian life through the history of the Saints, the Church, and works of charity for the poorest of the poor.”
- Fifth, he organized specifically Christian activities. You can’t replace something with nothing, and Philip knew that to draw the young away from pagan practices like the Saturnalia, there needed to be fun and attractive adventures of faith. So he started pilgrimages to the seven ancient basilicas in Rome, 40 hour devotions, musical groups and more. Many who at first might not have been drawn to the activities were attracted to the contagious enthusiasm of their organizer. Over time, however, these good activities formed them in virtue as much as the pagan activities had been forming them in vice. These happy peregrinations were also the occasion for many others to come to know about Philip and to join them. The holy sites to which they journeyed, and the holy actions of prayer and picnic in which they would engage along the way, were the means he used to get ordinary people back on the way who is Jesus leading people to eternal life. He helped them to see that these sanctuaries were their spiritual patrimony, the saints were their brothers and sisters in the faith, and that the spiritual treasures were their family heirlooms. That began to change the way they looked at what so many took for granted.
- Sixth, after his spiritual director persuaded him that he could do even more good as a priest than he was doing as a layman, he was ordained at the age of 36, and from that point forward he began to be one of the greatest confessors and spiritual directors in the history of the Church. There’s no greater means given by God to help people turn their lives around than the Sacrament of Penance. From dawn until his noon Mass, and for several hours in the afternoon, Philip would hear confessions. In order to hear more confessions, he needed to cut down on the advice given to each penitent, so he would ask them to come to the little Oratory where they could learn at once many of the things he would otherwise need to repeat. Many of his medicinal penances remain legendary, like having a vain young man shave off half of his beard to grow in humility and an elderly spinster try to collect all the pillow feathers dropped from a tower to learn the irreparable damage done by gossip. Some great sinners, as well as popes and saints, became his regular penitents and directees. This shows that there’s always a one-on-one dimension to the new evangelization, in accompanying people along the path of holiness, and Philip made that time. Pope Francis wrote in his letter, “Philip was the guide of so many, announcing the Gospel and dispensing the Sacarments. In particular he dedicated himself with great passion to the ministry of Confession, until the evening of his last day on earth. His preoccupation was constantly to follow the spiritual growth of his disciples, accompanying them through the difficulties of life and opening them up to Christian hope. His mission as a “chiseler of souls” was helped by the singular attractiveness of his personality, distinguished by human warmth, joy, meekness, and sweetness, all of which found their origin in his ardent experience of Christ and in the action of the Holy Spirit who had enlarged his heart.”
- Seventh, St. Philip inspired a missionary spirit among the laity. He formed lay men and women so that they could go out and evangelize others and transform culture and society. They would read together St. Francis Xavier’s letters from India and resolve to make Rome their Indies and win it back for Christ. Philip knew that, without the laity, there was little chance priests and religious alone could turn around Rome. This novel approach of lay involvement would bring him to the attention and, for a time, discipline of the Inquisition. He was centuries ahead of his time. But it’s the same thing for us. If we’re going to turn around our culture, we need to focus on forming the people who are already coming so that they can go, with the Holy Spirit’s power, out as salt, light and leaven to turn around the face of the earth.
- St. Philip, in short, in all of these ways led the people of his day from darkness into the light of Christ so that they might become living stones built on Christ. He helped them to receive Christ’s mercy, Christ’s salvation, Christ’s own life, and to share Christ’s passion to serve others with love. He reminded them that Jesus was passing by and inspired in them the courage to cry out to him in prayer and to leave security behind, spring up and go to him. And he helped them to share Jesus’ zeal for souls, trying to form them to be new evangelists themselves.
- The source of St. Philip’s great Christian and priestly zeal was the Mass. So great was St. Philip’s love for the Mass, so great was his prayerful entrance into the Mass, that whenever he began to think about it, he would go into ecstasy and even, some said, would levitate. His double-size heart would become like a hot-air balloon lifting him up toward God. For that reason, in preparation for Mass, he would have read to him joke or comic books to keep him from not entering into ecstatic prayer. Later on in life, when he was no longer able to celebrate public Masses, the server wound extinguish the candles after the consecration of the Precious Blood and come back two hours later, light the candles, pull on Philip’s chasuble and help him finish the Mass. Pope Francis focused on his love for the Jesus in the Eucharist in his letter for the 500th anniversary of his birth. He wrote, “In our day, especially in the world of the young who were so dear to St. Philip, there’s a great need for persons who pray and know how to teach others to pray. With his ‘extremely intense love for the Blessed Sacrament without which he couldn’t live,’ as the documents of his canonization said, he teaches us that the Eucharist celebrated, adored and lived is the source from which one can speak to the heart of others. Indeed, ‘with Jesus Christ joy is ever born and reborn.’” Philip was constantly courageously getting up and going to Jesus in the Eucharist asking him to give him Himself and it was that encounter that enabled him, like Bartimaeus, to spend the rest of his life following Jesus, glorifying him and helping others to follow and glorify him too.
- Today as the Eucharistic Lord Jesus asks us, “What do you want me to do for you?,” let us ask him for the gift to see the meaning of our life as St. Philip did his, so that we might love Jesus as he did and bring others on the exodus from darkness to eternal light.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 1 PT 2:2-5, 9-12
Like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk
so that through it you may grow into salvation,
for you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings
but chosen and precious in the sight of God,
and, like living stones,
let yourselves be built into a spiritual house
to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people of his own,
so that you may announce the praises of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.Once you were no people
but now you are God’s people;
you had not received mercy
but now you have received mercy.Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners
to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul.
Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles,
so that if they speak of you as evildoers,
they may observe your good works
and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Responsorial Psalm PS 100:2, 3, 4, 5
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
serve the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.
R. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.
Know that the LORD is God;
he made us, his we are;
his people, the flock he tends.
R. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
his courts with praise;
Give thanks to him;
bless his name.
R. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.
The LORD is good:
his kindness endures forever,
and his faithfulness, to all generations.
R. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.
Alleluia JN 8:12
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MK 10:46-52
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way.