(by request, my homily from Sunday)
In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus heals Bartimaeus, a man who was blind.
With a lot of the healings in the Gospels, we don’t even have the name of the person who Jesus heals. Here, we not only get the name, but we get his father’s name as well (he’s “Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus”).
St. Augustine takes this extra detail to mean that Bartimaeus was well-known. Everybody in Jericho knew who he was. Which means that everybody had an opinion about Bartimaeus. And we see that play out in the Gospel.
There were people who saw Bartimaeus as a thing. Because he was blind. Someone to look down on. Because he was forced to beg, to keep body and soul together.
In the Gospel, these are the ones whose response to Bartimaeus crying out to Jesus for help is to tell him to shut up.
There were also people who saw Bartimaeus as a human being. Someone who needs help, to be sure, but also someone worth their time and trouble.
In the Gospel, these are the ones whose response to Jesus calling to Bartimaeus is to help him get up on his feet. Encourage him. Point him in the right direction. Make sure that he gets to Jesus.
The first group? The ones who tell Bartimaeus to shut up? They’re a waste of time.
The second group? The ones who help and encourage Bartimaeus? They’re great.
They’re doing God’s work, setting an example for all of us. But that’s not the most important part.
The most important part? It’s found in something Jesus says to Bartimaeus, as He heals him,
“Your faith has saved you.”
What exactly does that mean? Why is that the most important part?
Let’s back up a step.
God’s love and kindness towards us knows no limits. If nothing else, Good Friday is proof of that.
As Jeremiah tells us, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’”
Translation – you are God’s beloved child. There is literally nothing you can do that will change God’s love for you. God is with you every step of the way, no matter what you’re facing.
Even if it’s stuff that you and I have brought on ourselves, through our own poor use of the choices and opportunities that have been given to us. God is constantly pouring out His love for you.
And you’re thinking, “That’s not how it feels for me. Sometimes, maybe a lot of the time, I’m not really feeling God’s presence. Or God’s love.”
I have those moments too. I mean, I know in my head that God loves me. I know that God is with me every step of the way. But sometimes, I’m just not feeling it.
Why? Why is that?
It’s because I’m focused on the wrong thing. On whatever I messed up. And not on God.
First, a reality check. You and I may feel like we’ve have blown it. That if God did have a plan for our lives, well, we’ve messed it up beyond any hope of salvage. And the reason that we’re not feeling God’s presence in our lives is because we’ve screwed things up so badly that God has just given up on us.
Here’s the reality check – you and I are not that powerful. No matter how far we fall. No matter how long we stray. No matter what we do. There is literally nothing that you and I can do to put ourselves beyond the love and saving power of God.
I take great comfort in knowing that God knows me better than I do. That when God laid out the plan for my life, He factored in my stupidity.
And you’re thinking, “That’s great, but why doesn’t it feel like that?”
The answer comes down to what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel. When He says to Bartimaeus, “Your faith has saved you.”
A lot of us confuse faith with having the right ideas about God. There is no doubt that knowing who God is, that having the right ideas about God, is important. That’s because having the wrong ideas about God makes it harder to have a relationship with God, makes it harder to have faith.
Having the right ideas about God, knowing who God really is, makes it easier to have faith. But don’t confuse having the right ideas about God with the faith that Jesus is talking about.
The faith that Jesus is talking about is a relationship, one that’s grounded in two things.
It’s grounded in believing that God will do what He says He will do. And it’s grounded in being open to God doing it His way.
Believing that God will do what He says He will do isn’t passive. It’s the opposite of buying a St. Cabrini raffle ticket, thinking “somebody’s going to win that $10,000 prize – wouldn’t it be nice if it was me?” Then sticking the ticket in your pocket and forgetting about it.
That’s because believing that God will do what He says He will do isn’t believing that God can do it. It’s believing that God will do it. And then acting on it.
By taking whatever it is we’re facing, and handing it over to God.
Then let go of it, and follow God’s lead in dealing with it.
Let go of it, and know that God will take care it.
Let go of it, and (if you and I are serious about changing how we feel) start thanking God that He has already taken care of it – right in the middle of it.
Start thanking God that He has taken care of it. Not after it’s all said and done, but right now, while you and I are going through it.
Right now, while it hurts the most, while it hits the hardest. Thank God that He has already taken care of it.
It won’t make what we’re dealing with magically go away. But that gratitude will open the door to receiving God’s peace. Not the peace of quiet and calm, eventually, when it’s all over and everything has settled down. But the powerful, active peace of God, right now, right in the middle of the storm.
If you’re serious about this, about having the faith that Jesus is talking about, about having God’s peace right in the middle of the storm, then you can’t forget the other part. Being open to God doing it His way.
Because handing it over to God, really handing it over to God, means letting go. And (here’s the hard part) not taking it back.
Trusting that the all-powerful, eternal God who loves us probably has a better idea of how to handle things than limited creatures like you and me.
Realizing what we’re saying in the Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer, when we say, “Thy will be done.” And actually meaning it.
Following God’s lead. Even if we can’t see how it’s going to work out. Actually trusting God.
Believing that God will do what He says He will do. And being open to God doing it His way.
That’s the faith that Jesus is talking about.
That’s why I know that the prayer that was in Bartimaeus’ heart when he called out to Jesus is the same prayer that you and I need to be praying,
“Lord, I don’t see a way, but I know you have a way.”
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