30th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

I love being on a mission.  I love the thrill of having a goal and the time and the determination to pursue that one big thing.  It give me clarity of thought and absolute focus.  There is the joy of singlemindedness and almost a purity of spirit as we pursue the mission.  We block out any diversions and keep our eyes straight ahead with our eyes on the prize.  To put it in a timely manner, being on mission feels like the World Series of life.

And when that mission is the mission of Jesus Christ, my excitement even grows.  What could be more important than spreading the good news of the Lord?  Nothing can quicken my pulse like the idea that the word of God is reaching where it has never been before; that someone unfamiliar with the promise of eternal life and salvation may taste it for the first time or hear it in a way that may changes their life.  In those cases, I am more than just mission oriented.  I am myopic.  Nothing else could matter- I am all engines ahead with nothing that could stop me.

Yet, what is ironic is that the man the mission is about hardly acted this way.  Oh, he was aware he was on a mission and that mission was the salvation of the world.  But he also seems to me to be a man of distraction with his eyes not focused straight ahead, but darting from side to side, open to being diverted in the name of the good.  How else would he have noticed Zacchaeus in the tree, or the widow about to bury her only son, or feel power go out of him as a hemorrhaging woman touched the hem of his garment?

We see this man of distraction in today’s Gospel.  Jesus is leaving one town for another with a sizeable crowd following him.  There is a momentum and new territories to show the wonders of this Jesus of Nazareth.  And on the side of the road is a beggar, a blind man named Bartimaeus crying out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”  He is a nobody, a bother, a nuisance and the motivated crowd ignores him, simply wanting to hurry on to the next triumph of Jesus. They try to silence him, they rebuke him, but he persists, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”  No one listens and no one cares until Jesus listens and Jesus cares.  He asks the disciples to call him over and suddenly, Bartimaeus, with the attention of Jesus on him, is no longer the forgotten man.  He is the chosen one.  The crowd is transformed by the care Jesus has for him.   From rebuking they now invite him with these incredibly powerful words, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”  His sight is restored and given a new life, he decides to follow Jesus.

What kind of disciple will we be?  Shall we be the hard charging disciples of the Lord, sure of our goal and unwavering in our direction, or shall we be more like the one we want to follow, pushing out from the center of the road to side, extending our reach to the peripheries, leaving the sanctuary of the Church and going into the street?  Will we hear the quiet cry of our quietest child or sense the anxiety of our parents and whisper reassuringly, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”  Will we no longer speed through the streets of our city but take account of the scar of violence upon it and fight the poverty and injustice as we cry out, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”  Will we seek out the loneliest, the sickest, the addicted; those who have suffered lost and those who are in the process of losing and say, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”

What if that were what we were known for?  As the bastion of mercy, the place where you are always heard.  We can be the embrace for which the outcast have waited.  We can be the distracted people of God who have the ability to let go of their own endeavors and ideas and look for who needs us now.  Our mission can be wide and our care can still be intimate.  We must seek out the one who makes their plea for mercy, for who else has what we have; who else can give the promise we give; who else can say, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”

Yet, we are not always the disciples that listen for that plaintive plea.  Indeed, sometimes we are the ones calling out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”  And we must respond.  If you are struggling in your marriage, if you are in the thralls of addiction, if you are covered by the darkness of depression, if you are mourning or have lost your hope, in the name of Jesus Christ, I promise you are not alone.  In the name of our parish, I promise we will be there for you. You are not alone when you are here.  I have good news:  “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”