30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 25, 2015
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 25, 2015
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
To the casual reader of today’s text from St. Mark’s Gospel,
this might seem to be just another story
about one of Jesus’ miracles.
But if we look more closely at the text we find one word
that helps us to see that it’s much more than that.
In today’s text the blind Bartimaeus calls Jesus “Master,”
which would be more accurately translated as “teacher.”
And with this word a great lesson from “The Teacher”:
as Jesus uses Bartimaeus’ plea to teach us about
the mystery of prayer.
So let’s look at what Jesus teaches us about prayer:
First: we see how Bartimaeus begins to call out
as soon as he’s aware of Jesus’ presence,
When we begin to call out to Jesus in prayer
we also need to personally go to him
—or to recognize that we are in his presence.
Now, we know that God is everywhere,
so we can pray to God wherever we are.
But some people say that since we can pray wherever we are
there are no special places to pray
—for example, why go to church, or to Mass on Sundays,
when I can just pray at home?
But remember, even though God is everywhere,
he also chose to take on human flesh,
confining himself to be in one place at one time,
so that, for example,
he could tell his disciples to bring Bartimaeus to him,
All this reminds us that while God is everywhere,
he is in some places in a different way than others.
We remember how Jesus used to go off to the desert or up a mountain to pray,
and we know that Jesus was always one with the Father, always praying,
wherever he was.
But we also know that his favorite place to pray was in his “Father’s house”
which he called “the house of prayer”
–the temple in Jerusalem.
As St. John tells us: “Zeal for [His Father’s] house…consume[d] [Him].”
And so when we pray, we can and should pray at home or in the car,
remembering we are in God’s presence even there.
But there is no better or more necessary place to pray
than in a Church like this,
where the Lord is truly present in a unique way
most especially, in the Blessed Sacrament.
But to pray, as Jesus teaches us today,
we first have to have faith: to believe in Jesus
and that he cares enough to listen to and answer our prayers.
Scripture tells us that when Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is coming by
he literally leaps at the opportunity for Christ to heal him.
He’s heard about Jesus, and he has faith that Jesus can somehow help him.
And so he cries out to him in faith.
Faith moves us to prayer, and prayer is an act of faith.
And so in response to his prayer of faith, Jesus tells Bartimaeus:
“your faith has saved you.”
Notice also how Jesus doesn’t immediately respond to Bartimaeus’ calls.
But Bartimaeus wouldn’t be discouraged, he kept praying.
A lot of us sometimes feel like Jesus isn’t answering our prayers,
and we’re tempted to stop praying or to even lose faith.
But there are lots of reasons Jesus doesn’t always answer our prayers
the way we’d like, or in the time we’d like.
Sometimes it’s because we pray for the wrong thing:
if we ask Him for something He knows is bad or wrong for us,
he loves us too much to give it to us.
Instead maybe he wants to us something else even better
—and we don’t even recognize it.
[For example: let’s say your 5-year-old son, likes playing soldier,
and so he asks you for a real loaded gun.
A good mom or dad would know that he was too young for that,
but might give him a good book on heroic soldiers.
The child might not understand,
and think mom and dad hadn’t answered his request,
but his dad loved him and saw what was bad for him
and gave him something better for him at the time.]
But sometimes Jesus wants us to pray just because prayer is good for us,
and he knows the only way he can get us to keep praying
is to not answer right away.
Like a spoiled child, we take for granted what he gives too easily.
So instead, sometimes he holds back for a while.
And as we continue to pray, we draw closer and to him.
And we develop the habit of prayer, we learn to pray constantly, and regularly,
and we learn that Jesus really is listening, and answering.
And we begin to want to pray,
and not merely to pray because we have to or want something,
but simply to be with him, to follow him wherever he leads.
Like Bartimaeus who, when Jesus tells him “Go your way”
scripture tells us “followed [Jesus] along [his] way.”
Devout and persistent prayer leads to true conversion of our way of life.
Now, there’s also another dimension of prayer that could easily be missed here.
Notice how at first, the disciples try to get Bartimaeus to shut up.
But then Jesus tells those same disciples to call Bartimaeus to come to him.
Why didn’t Jesus go to Bartimaeus himself?
Because he wants us to see how prayer often involves the assistance of others.
It’s kinda like the story of the paralytic
whose friends tear open a roof to lower him to be with Jesus.
God created us to love Him and one another,
and when you love someone you help them,
and the greatest way to help someone you love
is to pray for them.
And so God wants us not simply to remind each other to go to Jesus in prayer,
but also to pray for one another, and to ask each other to pray for us.
Next Sunday we celebrate this reality in a special way
with the Solemnity of all Saints.
Of course there are many reasons for celebrating that day,
but one of the most important reasons is to remember to pray to the saints
—and to ask them, just as you would ask me, or I would ask you,
to “pray for us.”
If God wants us to pray for each other when we’re on earth,
why would he want us to stop that when someone dies?
The saints in heaven love us more than ever,
—how could they not pray for us?
And how can we not ask them to pray for us?
Like the disciples that Jesus sends to help Bartimaeus in prayer,
Jesus continues to send us the saints to help us in prayer.
And of course, the greatest saint, who loves us more than any other
is the one of whom Scripture says:
“all generations will call…[her] ’blessed”:
our Blessed Mother, Mary.
Of course Jesus gives her a very special role of helping us in prayer.
Who can forget that it was Mary who went to Jesus,
praying to him for the wedding couple at Cana,
and then commanding the servants: “do whatever he tells you.”
Mary does exactly what Jesus teaches his disciples to do in today’s Gospel,
she is an intermediary, in love, between the pray-er and Jesus.
October is, of course, a special month of prayer to Mary:
the month of the Holy Rosary.
Now, some of you may not pray the rosary, or you might pray it infrequently,
but there is no spiritual exercise or prayer,
other than the sacraments themselves,
that comes so highly recommended by the saints and the Church itself.
Because in the rosary we turn to our Blessed Mother
and ask her to both to pray for us
and to teach us how to pray,
as, like the disciples in today’s gospel,
she brings us to her son
as we meditate on the mysteries of His life.
In the end though, all prayers
—even of the prayers of Mary and the saints in heaven—
pale in comparison to the prayer of Jesus himself.
As I mentioned before, when he was on earth
He was constantly praying to the Father,
constantly praying for us.
Fortunately for us, he continues to pray for us.
This is what today’s 2nd reading from the letter to the Hebrews means
when it refers to Jesus as the [true] “high priest” and says:
“Every high priest is taken from among men
and made their representative before God…”
As St. Paul writes elsewhere in this same letter:
“Christ Jesus… at the right hand of God,…indeed intercedes for us…”
Just as he sends his disciples out to be intermediaries,
Jesus himself is the intermediary between God and man.
In the mysterious plan of the Trinity,
Jesus takes our prayers to Him and lifts them up to the Father,
and so we constantly close our prayers, with words like
“through Christ Our Lord.”
We do this especially at Mass,
where Christ takes our feeble prayers
and joins them to his own most perfect prayer:
his sacrifice on the Cross,
made present in the Eucharist.
The ultimate prayer
of thanksgiving, of praise, of petition, of intercession, of penance;
the ultimate prayer of faith, hope and love.
And so there is no better way to pray
than to come to his Temple to pray the Mass
and lift up our hearts to the Lord in prayer,
so that he may perfect them.
Now, as we, like Bartimaeus, come into the presence of the Lord,
let us allow the Master to teach us how to pray
as we enter into His great prayer of the Eucharist.
Like the prayer of Bartimaeus, may our prayers
boldly, faithfully and unceasingly rise up to Him.
May they be united to the prayers of the angels and saints in heaven,
and the prayers of our Blessed Mother.
And may the Lord Jesus take all of these humble cries to him,
and unite them to His own magnificent prayer to His Father,
….and so transform and perfect them,
…and every prayer we ever pray,
…today, tomorrow and in all eternity.