Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 24, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Jer 31:7-9 / Ps 126 / Heb 5:1-6 / Mk 10:46-52
by Rev. Mr. Mark De La Hunt, Permanent Deacon
Jesus performed miracles two thousand years ago and is still doing so today. Today, may we leave this church with a renewed faith in Jesus’ power to heal us and to truly help us when we are in need, and to heal and help others through our prayer.
In today’s gospel, the setting is important. Jesus is walking from Jericho to Jerusalem. Said another way, Jesus is walking from the site of the opening of the Promised Land through Joshua’s obedience to God, to the site of the opening of the gates to our final Promised Land through Jesus’ obedience to His Father.
One of the signs of this transition from Joshua and the Kingdom of Israel to Jesus and the Kingdom of God is healings and miracles. Bartimaeus had heard about Jesus’ miracles and called out “Lord Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” Bartimaeus was a beggar, and his prayer brings to mind St. Augustine telling us that in prayer, “Man is a beggar before God.” Despite being told to be quiet by Jesus’ followers, Bartimaeus keeps calling to Jesus. When we seek Christ’s grace, there is often a spirit of opposition that tries to discourage us, but like Bartimaeus, we must pray through it.
In response to his prayer, Jesus asks Bartimaeus a question that He speaks to us in our souls. “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus does not ask for power or honor like James and John did in last week’s gospel, after Jesus asked them the very same question. Bartimaeus simply asks for the eyesight God intended Him to have from the beginning. He wanted to be restored to the fullness of his humanity; he wanted to be whole.
The Bartimaeus miracle contains elements we see so often in miracle stories. A request was made to God, “Master I want to see;” God’s grace was poured out, “immediately, he received his sight;” and the recipient of that grace took a leap of faith and acted; Bartimaeus “threw aside his cloak, sprang up…and followed Him on the way.”
I have experienced these three elements firsthand. Holy Name of Mary has a healing prayer ministry. Every so often, after Mass, a few prayer couples will spread out around the nave, and people will come up to ask the Lord for healing or help for themselves or for someone they love. I have always been deeply moved by the humility, faith, and hope of these people.
One time a woman came up for healing. She was walking with a limp and explained to us that she was seeing an orthopedic doctor and facing hip surgery. She was distressed because she regularly hiked with friends and the deteriorating hip threatened that joy. She asked for her hip to be healed, and we prayed over her. She went on her way and continued the physical therapy her doctor recommended. A week or two later she pulled me aside in the church commons, and looking shocked, said, “Mark, I’ve been healed, and I don’t know what to do.” Those are the words of a person who has experienced God’s love in a powerful way.
Some of you who are sick or suffering or love someone who is, may be disappointed that she was not healed instantly, dancing and skipping out of the church. But based on studies of miracles around the world, experts say that sometimes healings are instantaneous like Bartimaeus’s, and sometimes they occur over time.
Also, miracles are not always astounding, unexplainable events. Indeed, the early Christians understood them to also be extraordinary coincidences that worked in their favor at just the right time. I will share a personal example of this, and it too contained those three elements so common in miracles: a prayer request was made, God’s grace was poured out, and a leap of faith was taken.
My wife and I wanted to go the 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto, but in the weeks leading up to it, I became very ill due to my lung disease. I had been bed-bound with fever and difficulty breathing for three weeks, and lung removal surgery was scheduled for the week of World Youth Day. Nevertheless, I prayed to go, and God’s grace was poured out. The week before my scheduled surgery, my airways cleared up and, this is really cool, the surgeon decided to take a vacation, so my surgery was postponed.
Catherine and I took a leap of faith and loaded up our four children in the minivan and headed off to Toronto with no idea where we would stay or if I would remain healthy. Despite there being 500,000 religious pilgrims in Toronto, we found a hotel room near the World Youth Day site, and I remained healthy the whole week.
I would be remiss to not mention the Church’s sacrament of healing, Anointing of the Sick, which is alluded to by St. Mark (Ch. 6) and was promulgated by St. James (Ch. 5). And I am pulling from the Catechism of the Catholic Church here. In the Anointing of the Sick, Jesus gives us grace for our physical needs, AND He forgives our sins. Thus, like all the sacraments, Anointing of the Sick leads us to deeper conversion. I encourage you to ask Father for this sacrament before surgery or when suffering from pain or illness.
I’ll share a few “watch outs” and then wrap this up. Through Christ’s generosity, He gives our suffering redemptive power, which is wonderful. But nowhere in the gospels does Jesus say to the one seeking healing, “You need to suffer more before I heal you.” Nor did He tell anyone, “Your sinlessness has saved you.” We are all sinners, and we should patiently and prayerfully offer up our suffering for others, but these things should not stop us from asking for healing and help. And do not worry about feeling dejected if your request is not answered in the way you hoped. Even when people do not receive the healing or help they hoped for, many do notice they are more at peace with their situation.
Here is something you can do today. When you come up for Holy Communion and Jesus is placed upon your hand or tongue, which we hold out as a beggar before God, and after saying Amen, hear Jesus ask, “What do you want me to do for you?” Make your request in the quiet of your heart, “Master I want ______.” And as you are returning to your seat, hear Jesus say to you, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Then believe and take a leap of faith.