What the Lord Wishes to Do for Us, 33rd Monday (I), November 17, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass for the Faithful Departed
November 20, 2017
1 Mc 1:10-15.41-43.54-57.62-63, Ps 119, Lk 18:35-43


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


The following points were attempted in the 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 was in Jericho, literally the lowest place on earth. 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!” 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. 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!” The word used — anablepo — means in Greek to “see again.” St. Augustine, and with him Pope Benedict, have focused a lot on his name as St. Mark describes it, “Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging.” The evangelist 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, St. Mark isn’t accustomed to doing that with other names. One of the things that was likely at work was 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.
  • After he had cried out, 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 our comfort zone to respond to the Lord. Bartimaeus had that courage and did. St. Mark tells us, “He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.” 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 always 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. 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.” 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. Bartimaeus used his sight and his freedom to follow Jesus. He left the depth of Jericho behind and followed Jesus up to Jerusalem, he followed him on Palm Sunday, he followed up on the Way of the Cross, he followed him. St. Luke’s comment, “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), suggests he spent the rest of his life glorifying God in such a way that others joined him in that divine praise.
  • This cry of Bartimaeus is one of the most beautiful and frequent Christian aspirations: Domine, ut videam!, “Lord, I want to see.” Many times we too fall and need to be restored. We give into blindness, we can no longer see our dignity, or see past the temptations of the evil one, or see God in the midst of daily life. That’s what happened to the Jews in the first reading today. Many of them lost a sense of their dignity and sought to accommodate themselves to the way of life of the Ptolemeian Greeks from Egypt, covering up the signs of their consecration, giving in to their bellies like the pagans, recognizing that their circumcision and their dietary laws were means to make sure that they would always order their natural sexual and physical appetites to God. Some remained faithful, as we’ll be seeing in readings later this week, even to the point of their death. For those who didn’t, the Son of David would come to try to do for them what he did for Bartimaeus.
  • Today we began Mass by echoing Bartimaeus’ cry to have mercy on us and Jesus has had mercy in calling us to himself over and again. Today the same Jesus who has passed by our lives and invited us to follow him passes by this E. 66th Street, summoning us by name, and asking, “What do you want me to do for you!” With gratitude for all his gifts, we ask him for the grace to see Him in the Eucharist, to see him in those we serve, to see him in all those crying out, and finally with them one day to see him face-to-face forever!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 1 Mc 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63

[From the descendants of Alexander’s officers]
there sprang a sinful offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes,
son of King Antiochus, once a hostage at Rome.
He became king in the year one hundred and thirty seven
of the kingdom of the Greeks.In those days there appeared in Israel
men who were breakers of the law,
and they seduced many people, saying:
“Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us;
since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us.”
The proposal was agreeable;
some from among the people promptly went to the king,
and he authorized them to introduce the way of living
of the Gentiles.
Thereupon they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem
according to the Gentile custom.
They covered over the mark of their circumcision
and abandoned the holy covenant;
they allied themselves with the Gentiles
and sold themselves to wrongdoing.
Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people,
each abandoning his particular customs.
All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king,
and many children of Israel were in favor of his religion;
they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.On the fifteenth day of the month Chislev,
in the year one hundred and forty-five,
the king erected the horrible abomination
upon the altar of burnt offerings
and in the surrounding cities of Judah they built pagan altars.
They also burned incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets.
Any scrolls of the law which they found they tore up and burnt.
Whoever was found with a scroll of the covenant,
and whoever observed the law,
was condemned to death by royal decree.
But many in Israel were determined
and resolved in their hearts not to eat anything unclean;
they preferred to die rather than to be defiled with unclean food
or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die.
Terrible affliction was upon Israel.

Responsorial Psalm PS 119:53, 61, 134, 150, 155, 158

R. (see 88) Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.
Indignation seizes me because of the wicked
who forsake your law.
R. Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.
Though the snares of the wicked are twined about me,
your law I have not forgotten.
R. Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.
Redeem me from the oppression of men,
that I may keep your precepts.
R. Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.
I am attacked by malicious persecutors
who are far from your law.
R. Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.
Far from sinners is salvation,
because they seek not your statutes.
R. Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.
I beheld the apostates with loathing,
because they kept not to your promise.
R. Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.

Alleluia Jn 8:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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.