By Fr Graham Pugin SJ By now most of you know that I was shot on Monday afternoon. I was standing, empty-handed in the gates of Holy Trinity Catholic Church...
For the second successive week let us start with the NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [HEBREWS 5: 1 – 6]. It would be profitable to link Verse 2 of this scripture with some phrases from THIS SUNDAYS PSALM [126 or125].
In Hebrews we read “he can deal patiently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” In the Psalm we listen to “the Lord brought back the exiles, we thought we were dreaming … they come back, they come back with a song.”
The Church and each one of us need to remember that we are all beset with weakness but have the ability to introduce son into peoples lives!
How patiently do we (and the official Church) deal with the ignorant and wayward? What exactly and precisely is our outreach? In our contemporary society this is a valid and imperative question for us to answer. In fact, does our approach erect barriers (not to mention the engendering of anger and frustration) and make it enormously and unreasonably difficult to bring back the exiles… with a song? The question needs to be answered against Jesus proclamation that “it is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick.” [Matthew 9:12, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31].
At the same time, let us face the situation presented by THIS SUNDAYS GOSPEL [MARK 10: 46 – 52]. There we heara very human story about a person “sitting by the roadside.” He was an outcast, the contemporary marginalised, without influence, status or power. Beggars and the blind were commonplace in Jesus time. There were a variety of reasons, which do not concern us here, why this was. We need to see the realistic situation presented by Mark. The blind man saw his opportunity. He recognised what Jesus was able to do for him (not TO him!). The good people tried to keep him quiet – “and many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” However, the Lord “stopped and said Call him” How often do we and the Church rebuke and try to silence those who are calling out for some small recognition, a crumb of concern?
Those who call out are in need and are in exile. Jesus responded to the immediate situation and need. He did something of enormous benefit to that particular individual. There was no examination of the past, no penalties, no prescriptions, no conditions. The blind man recognised Jesus for what he was. Had the gathered crowd done the same? I suspect not!? The Lords response brought back an exile – with a song. Do not bypass the closing verses of this Gospel reading – “and immediately he received his sight and followed him one the way.” How many in that particular crowd followed Jesus on the way? Too often it takes a blind person to show us what to see!
We should not overlook another telling verse which tells us that the moment Bartimaeus heard Jesus call – “throwing off his cloak he sprang up and came to Jesus.” Two points, both worth reflecting on, emerge. Firstly, notice the enthusiasm of the blind mans response, and the fact that he threw off his cloak – the cloak was his most precious possession, and he gave it up. The past was jettisoned, and he was about to start an entirely new way of life. He came to Jesus, and stayed with him … all the result of the fact that he had been noticed and heard: “what do you want me to do for you?” (for you, and not to you!) Secondly, take special note of the fact that Mark NAMES THE BLIND MAN!
It is vitally important for us (and the Church) to put a name to the face, the call being made, and the need.
No doubt it is easier to do some Establishment-bashing (both Church and Civil Society) but be wary of an escape mechanism. How good and proficient am I in hearing the calls from the fringe (majority?) and responding to the PERSON, I know and am able to NAME?
We all need to accept as a personal intention of purpose words from THE OLD TESTAMENT READING [JEREMIAH 31: 7 – 9]. “I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water.”