October 28, 2018 – Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
Homily originally delivered at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis in 2015:
When delivering homilies, I have sometimes shared stories involving members of my family. People will often ask me, “Does your family mind that you talk about them like that?” In discussing it with them, they don’t seem to mind.
I have something to include in my homily today that my wife may not want me to share. However, I put her on a plane to El Salvador on Wednesday morning. With Carol safely out of the country, I’m going for it.
I’m sure that when people see my beautiful wife and I together, they wonder to themselves, “How did she get stuck with him?” They assume I must have money or that it was an arranged marriage. Those assumptions don’t hurt my feelings. I am well aware of the fact that I married way out of my league.
So what is my secret? Persistence.
The first time I asked Carol to marry me, she said, “No.” Now, if Carol were here, she’d say, “Well…I didn’t really say, ‘No.’”
I was there. I know a “No” when I hear it.
But I didn’t take “No” for an answer. I was a squeaky wheel. I was persistent. I was a step above persistent. I was relentless.
Two months later, she said, “Yes.”
About 5 years ago, I had a student who said she really wanted one of our school rules changed. She made an appointment, came to my office, and made her case for the change. She was polite, but not well-informed, and seemed to know it was a lost cause before she ever began. I listened attentively, acknowledged her effort, and explained why the rule was in place. I also explained why it would not be changed.
For the next couple of months, she came to my office about once a week to re-state her case and ask me to re-consider changing the rule. There was no passion in her voice. It seemed she was really just killing time.
Eventually, I grew tired of her dropping in to my office. I would never have told her this, but she was becoming annoying. I’m sure what she was trying to do was be persistent. Her type of persistence was not working.
Finally, I saw a comic strip once that showed a man talking to his boss. You could see his fellow employees in the background, carrying picket signs demanding higher wages. The man told his boss, “You have to give in before too long. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, you know.”
In the second panel, the boss responded, “Not necessarily. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets replaced.”
These three examples lead us to some questions: When are we being annoying and when are we being persistent? When is being a squeaky wheel a good thing and when is it a bad thing?
In today’s Gospel, we meet Bartimaeus. He was blind, likely from birth, and resorted to begging due to his condition.
Some found him annoying. After calling out to Jesus, we are told that “…many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” I am sure they were thinking to themselves, “Who does this beggar think he is, bothering a man as important as Jesus?”
He was definitely a squeaky wheel – Mark tells us that Bartimaeus “kept calling out all the more, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’”
Yet, Jesus considered him persistent, and rewarded him for it.
What was it about Bartimaeus that moved Jesus to give him his sight and say, “Your faith has saved you”?
There are a few things that Jesus recognized in this blind beggar that others did not:
- First, Bartimaeus believed. He believed Jesus was capable of giving him his sight. It is likely that he had heard about Jesus healing others. As Jesus traveled, word about the miraculous healings He had performed spread. Now, throngs of people followed Him wherever he went. Bartimaeus heard about Jesus, and believed. Without seeing it with his own eyes – unable to see it with his own eyes – he believed. He had absolute faith in Jesus. Happy are those who have not seen, and yet believe.
- Second, Bartimaeus took action. Jesus might never pass that way again. He knew that if he were going to receive help, then he needed to act when he had the chance. The Gospel tells us that when Jesus responded to him, Bartimaeus “threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.” This blind man had a desire, and he ran to Jesus with that desire. If he had not acted right then, he would have been blind forever.
It was his faith that allowed him to take action.
- Third, Bartimaeus spoke with confidence. Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus replied, “Master, I want to see.” He did not say, “I hope you can do this for me” or “Could you try to give me my sight?” He simply stated his desire to Jesus – “I want to see.”
It was his faith that allowed him to speak with confidence.
- Finally, Bartimaeus followed through. Throughout Scripture we read about others who were healed. Often they ran away to spread the news to their family and friends. Some simply disappeared without even a thank you. Not Bartimaeus. Jesus opened the door for him to walk away, saying “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
However, he saw that the way of Jesus was a far better way than his own. The Gospel tells us: “Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the way.”
It was his faith that allowed him to follow through.
Bartimaeus was not annoying. He was not an irritating squeaky wheel, but a persistent one. His faith allowed him to take action, to speak confidently, and to follow through. His faith allowed him to be relentless. Jesus wants our faith to give us the courage to do the same.
He wants us to pursue Him relentlessly.
Even a blind man can see that.