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30th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2018/What Do I Not Want to See?

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30th Sunday/ What Do I Not Want to See?    

In Jesus’ day there were many more people who were physically blind than there is today.  Hygiene was terrible so there were all kinds of eye infections born by insects.  Cataracts went untreated.  And then there were accidents that happened as people did hard physical labor.  We have better medical science today.  People who are physically blind are rarer.  But those who are intellectually blind are just as common as when our Lord walked the earth.

            The Gospel writers had various techniques that they used to make a point.  One thing that they would do would begin and end a block of written material with a similar story.  Mark does that with the Gospel we have just read.  Earlier in the Gospel (Mark 8:22-26) at Bethsaida, a blind man is brought to Jesus. Jesus lays hands on him, but he does not cure him the first time.  The man gets blurry vision at first. Only after a couple of attempts does Jesus cure the man.  We get the impression something was getting in the way of the cure.

            After this miracle story Jesus tells the apostles three times that he must die on the cross. But the apostles do not seem to hear him.  We have read stories the last few weeks about how the Apostles seem only interested in gaining power in the infant church.  The Apostles wanted earthly success. Hearing about Jesus’ gruesome death seems to throw them into a quandary.

            After healing the first blind man another thing happens.  Jesus turns toward Jerusalem.  He begins his walk to the passion.  We could say that the healing of the first blind man is the turning point of Jesus ministry.  From that time forward, Jesus has more conflicts with Jewish religious authorities. 

            At the end of the three predictions of the passion, Jesus meets Bartimaeus.  Bartimaeus is not like the other blind man.  He is not brought to Jesus by others.  No, he calls out on his own. He is sure of what Jesus can do for him. He knows that Jesus can help him to see. The cure is complete.  The cure is immediate.  Jesus tells Bartimaeus to be on his way.  But Bartimaeus follows Jesus to Jerusalem.  He clearly sees that to follow Jesus is to face the cross, but he does not waver.

            Again, there is a physical blindness.  And again, there is also intellectual blindness.  We can fail to see what we do not want to see. 

            As a seminarian I had the privilege to participate a program with an African American priest name Fr. Boniface Harden.  Fr. Boniface ministered in intercity Indianapolis.  He worked throughout his live to improve race relations. 

            In the program he started, seminarians would live with an intercity African American family for a month.  We attended classes. We toured the city to find out what programs were in place to help those living in poverty. We also would attend worship in Catholic churches as well as Protestant churches. Now this was an eye-opening experience for someone like me who grew up in rural Illinois.  

I went into the program believing that I was an open-minded person who accepted everyone. I was not prejudiced.  By the end of the month I saw that many of the judgements that I made were discriminatory. I was more prejudice than I thought.   I am more comfortable when I am with people who look and speak like me.  I learned to own that part of myself.

            I also learned that African Americans that I interacted with were uneasy having me around as well. All that being said, I made friends throughout the month.  I learned a lot.  I was able to see why my new African American friends felt the way they did.  I saw that I would need to have to grow and to change constantly as I dealt with other races. I needed to own who I was.  I needed to recognize the sin in my own life. I need a constant conversion of heart when it comes to issues of race.

            Insight comes only when we confess to having blind spots.  In our polarized society wouldn’t it be nice if people could admit to blindness saying, “Lord I want to see.”  If that would happen, maybe we could avoid the violence that seems to be more and more prevalent, violence rooted in hate and fear of others.  Jesus asks us as he asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want from me?”  Do we have the strength to say, “Lord I want to see?” Even if what I see in myself is unpleasant to look at.