Home » Gospel Encouragement – Sunday 24th October 2021 – 30th Sunday of the Year

Gospel Encouragement – Sunday 24th October 2021 – 30th Sunday of the Year

Dear sisters and brothers,

When we look at the Gospels, we see so many beautiful accounts of Jesus healing people, though some seem to get more direct access to him than others.  Surprise, surprise; the centurion and the synagogue official are allowed through the crowd without anyone blocking their way because of their positions of authority. As a result, the centurion’s servant is healed and the synagogue official’s daughter is raised from the dead.  We have the paralytic man whose friends fight their way through the crowds and lower him through the roof; he has his sins forgiven and his paralysis healed.  We have the woman caught in adultery and Zaccheus, both of whom are hated by the crowds, but who receive forgiveness of their sins.  She was flung before Jesus to be condemned, but instead receives only compassion, and Zaccheus climbs a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus and is welcomed into his company.

Today, we have the story of the son of Timaeus, often referred to as Bartimaeus, but in truth we don’t even know his name.  He is blind and is ostracised by the crowd as a result, but he too receives the loving touch of the Lord.  He, and each of these, reflects the salvation prophesied by Jeremiah in today’s first reading:

“I will…gather them from the far ends of earth;

all of them: the blind and the lame,

women with child, women in labour:

a great company returning here…

I will comfort them as I lead them back;

I will guide them to streams of water,

by a smooth path where they will not stumble.”

As we reflect on Bartimaeus’ story, maybe we can reflect on where we find ourselves in the account.  In Bartimaeus we are presented with a man in great need, and yet the crowd scold him for drawing attention to himself.  But he is persistent, maybe because he is desperate for help, or maybe because he has such great faith in Jesus, or maybe it’s a bit of both.  He cries out: “Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me”.  In using the title, Son of David, he recognises Jesus as the Messiah who had been prophesied for so long.  In using his name, Jesus – Yeshua in Hebrew – he proclaims the meaning of that name: ‘he who saves’.  Jesus has the power to save him from his blindness, both physically and spiritually.  And in the term ‘have pity on me’ – which is probably better translated as ‘have compassion on me’ – he recognises how Jesus saves.

The word compassion literally means to enter into the suffering of another, and that is how Jesus saves.  He enters into the suffering of Bartimaeus and each of us, he understands our struggles and he carries our burdens.  On the Cross he associates his great suffering with all our sufferings and in his Resurrection he defeats suffering and death by revealing the greatest hope to sustain us through our earthly struggles, the promise of a perfect life beyond death.

In that compassion Jesus calls Bartimaeus forward and, taking ‘courage’ – literally allowing his heart to be strengthened – the blind man steps into the Saviour’s presence.  Jesus asks him what he wants and he asks that he might see.  In compassion, Jesus heals the physical blindness, but the fruit is that Bartimaeus is also healed of his spiritual blindness as he chooses now to follow Jesus along the road.  He has become a disciple of the Lord.

Now, many of us come before the Lord seeking healing; many of us strengthen our hearts and step into his presence and ask for what we need, but don’t seem to get the answer that we desire, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to that.  But even if it doesn’t happen in the moment, we can trust in the power of the Cross and Resurrection to defeat suffering and death when the end of our earthly life comes.

Someone who I know has a very powerful healing ministry.  He, and his community, are invited all over the world to lead Catholic miracle rallies, and over the years he has seen thousands of people healed.  His wife died ten days ago at the age of 60 after decades of struggle with ill health in one way or another, and he always said that he didn’t understand why God answered his prayers for the thousands, but not for the one who he prayed for more consistently than anyone else.  But he also always said that he trusted that somehow her suffering was part of God’s plan, that he would come to understand in the fulness of time.  Maybe it’s redemptive suffering, in which we associate our struggles with Jesus’ struggles on the Cross, or maybe it’s something else, but the invitation is to thrust the Lord.  To grow in our expectant faith for healing, but to accept whatever the Lord’s will may be, for he has a bigger picture, a more detailed plan than we can see.

So, wherever we find ourself in the story of Bartimaeus, whether we’re a scolder in the crowd, or someone in need of courage or compassion, or a person who wants to be healed or we may even have experienced healing in some way, let’s step into the presence of the Lord today, to stand before him and allow him to reveal his compassion to us.  Let’s allow him to enter into our suffering as we enter into his, and receive the courage, healing and strength that he gives as we receive the gift of the Eucharist.  Jesus, I trust in you.

With every blessing,

Simon and Deacon Liam