Browsing Reflections

Fr. Jo's Reflection for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Yr B, October 24th, 2021

Do you realize that more and more people are plastering their vehicles with words announcing their social or political beliefs or things they feel compelled to let all of us know about? From “Lisa for President” to “I Love Brent, My Pet” and similar aphorisms. Recently, I saw a bumper sticker that says, “I’m Queer, Deal With It.” But the one that got me was a bumper sticker that says, “Jesus is the Answer;” which made me wonder or even ask, “What is the Question?” Many who use this aphorism make no effort to build character, but coopt the name of Jesus as answer to every question. According to Heraclitus, “you cannot get by prayer what you should get by character.” Jesus knows those who truly seek Him in prayer and walk the path of salvation with Him. Today, we meet a man who has the best words in his own bumper on an exit road from Jericho.  His name is Bartimaeus.

With eight well-chosen words, the blind man of today’s Gospel, Bartimaeus, reached the ears and heart of the Lord. Those eight powerful words “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me” have entered into the lips of the praying Church and have been prayed perennially as invocation, Act of Contrition, and intercessory prayer. Those were forceful words from a blind beggar which made the Lord stop and inquire who uttered such faith-filled prayer. Trapped in the sad and dark world of blindness, and precluded from seeing the splendid colors of flowers, the delightful blossoms of the olives, and the rustling of the pines and palm trees surrounding the high hills of Jericho, Bartimaeus wished for the day when he could feast his eyes on the beauty of creation, which he must have heard so much about from those privileged with sight.

His answer to the inquiry by the Lord, “What do you want me to do for you?” evokes strong emotion: “Lord, that I may see!” One can only imagine what joy came upon Bartimaeus as the beauty of God’s creation that he had only smelled and touched unfolded before his eyes, including the most breath-taking sight that anyone can ever behold: the face of the Living Incarnate God. According to our Lord, his faith did it for him. What can your faith do for you?

Obviously, you’ll be profoundly amazed and overjoyed when He casts off your earthly yoke and shows you His glorious face.  But maybe, you’re still trapped in deep spiritual blindness that prevents you from seeing your faults, yet keen to observe the faults of other people. Maybe, you’ve lost your way and wander in the darkness of erroneous beliefs and sinful practices. Maybe, you are like an owl, awake at night or in some dark place all to yourself, polluting your mind with the vermin of immoral pictures and surrendering your body to lustful desires and actions. Maybe you’ve acquiesced to hopelessness because society tells you it is okay to sin and gloat. You could also have read Pope Francis wrongly, believing he promises you divine mercy without personal  change and repentance. From our gloomy shadow of despair, we are invited to “cry out, and shout,” (to the Son of David) as Joshua of old instructed God’s people (Joshua 6:10) in order that he may purge us of sin, and the walls of iniquity may crumble before us. That is how Jesus can be the answer for us.

Do you remember that march by Joshua and the Israelite army seven times over Jericho, which caused the walls to collapse? Jesus, the new Joshua (God saves) is taking along a new army of believers as He journeys to Jerusalem to free them from slavery to sin. The walls of the new Jericho that Jesus came to dismantle are certainly the arrogance and blindness of modern society that inhibit the inhabitants of this new Jericho from seeing clearly the spiritual values that underlie their existence. Bartimaeus (representing the new Jericho) knows that Jericho holds no hopes for him, so he finds companionship with the new Joshua, the conqueror of the blindness of Jericho. With Bartimaeus we should cry out from our dark despair to Jesus, the true Light of the world.

Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo


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