Fr. Frank McDevitt is the pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Aurora, Ont.
We encounter Jesus and His disciples today outside of Jericho on their way to Jerusalem.
How could you blame them for lacking patience with Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus? What do you say to this noisy interloper?
But Bartimaeus persists with his calls for mercy.
Perhaps there is no more rigorous discipline demanded of us in Christian life than mercy.
Something in human nature can make us eager to draw a line between who is in and who is out. To define who can be on the way and who cannot.
Yet, it is Bartimaeus’ belief in the mercy of Christ that sets him on the way.
The Prophet Jeremiah anticipates the experience of Christ. Like the way of Christ, Jeremiah describes the restoration of Israel. This too is a journey. And who is on this journey? The blind, the lame, the pregnant woman and the woman in labour. Maybe not our first choice as we travel on foot through the wilderness that Jeremiah describes.
But, by the grace of God, the journey will be on a footpath by streams of water. It is God who sustains us.
In our rush to decide who is in and who is out, we can be quick to put mercy aside. To wrap ourselves in belonging. To see the way of the cross as a private club.
In Christ we embrace life and strive to live it fully. This is our strength. Full life is the source of mercy. For mercy grows out of strength. If we find that our first impulse is to react, then we know that not too far beneath the surface there is fear. When we fear, we quickly put ourselves on the defensive and seek out an enemy where no enemy exists.
But as we travel along the way – all of us together – there are many who sit on the sidelines to simply watch the parade. Others have, in fact, slid into the ditch and are in need of our mercy.
In our faith, we may easily recognize our responsibility to the beggar.
There is no doubt that we, as a Church, are willing, even eager, to feed the person on the street and give our support to poor households. We do it well and can be justly proud of this work.
But what do we do with the blind? With those who do not see the value of the way we travel or who have lost their spiritual vision.
Are we willing, in spite of their limitations, to invite them into the mercy that is Christ?
What do we do when the unchurched Catholic dies?
What do we do with the children of the Catholic who never seems to be buckle down into a relationship with Christ?
What do we do with the restless Catholic who wants to know why the Church does not change?
If we believe in mercy, we bury them when they die, we baptize them and give them Communion when they are children and we listen to them when they are restless.
We recognize that we are strong enough and able enough to care for those who have died, even if they may not have put as much effort as we would like into their relationship with Christ.
There are those on the inside who can quickly accuse others of wanting to celebrate baptism, Communion and confirmation as a way to justify a party. We act as if we must protect Christ; that somehow God does not have the power to withstand any of our muddled intentions. And let us be clear, we all have muddled intentions at times.
And, by the way, if being washed in the waters of salvation, if receiving the living Christ in Communion for the first time, if confirming your Catholic faith does not merit a party, what does?
And what do we do with the dissenter?
Yell at them to be quiet, bicker with them or slough them off?
Perhaps with the voices of dissent, we seek common ground.
In the end, we are all touched by the mercy of God and as God’s people we strive to seek to be merciful.
Mark’s Gospel also says something about us and Christ in this little story.
It seems to me that if we were walking down a road and a blind beggar called to us from the side of the road, we would go to them. We wouldn’t tell them to come to us. Yet, Jesus calls the blind Bartimaeus to Himself.
We are called to Jesus and we all come to Him with our blindness.
We are each of us Bartimaeus longing for mercy.
Each of us knows our own potential for losing the way.
You and I, we people, are the blessed remnant, ever being reborn through the mercy of Christ.
This homily is based on the readings for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B: Jeremiah 31.7-9; Hebrews 5.1-6; and Mark 10.46-52, The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus.