Father Donald Senior, CP

Oct. 24: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

‘Master, I want to see’

Jer 31:7-9; Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6; Heb 5:1-6; Mk 10:46-52

Our polarized country struggles with how to respond to the migrants and refugees who surge toward our southern border. Scenes of desperate parents and children attempting to swim the Rio Grande or penned up in makeshift shelters fill our television screens. Our civic leaders argue and fret about what should be done, but the people fleeing hunger and violence keep coming.

Our country is by no means the only country in the world where thousands seek asylum and the chance for a better life. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that as of the end of 2020, there were 82.4 million “forcibly displaced people” in the world, a number that has doubled since 2010.

Our Scripture readings for this Sunday remind us that the biblical peoples, too, knew what it meant to be a “forcibly displaced people.” Twice in their history, the people of Israel experienced violent deportation: the northern tribes exiled by Assyria in the eighth century, and the southern tribes of Judea by the Babylonians two centuries later.

The latter was particularly brutal, with the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, the crushing of the monarchy and the forced removal from their land for thousands of Israelites.

After 70 long years, the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great intervened and permitted the exiles to return to their broken and scorched homeland. The first reading today from the prophet Jeremiah reflects on that emotional moment: “The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel ... the mothers and those with child, they shall return as an immense throng. They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water.”

The Responsorial Psalm 126 exults as well in the taste of freedom for the returning exiles: “When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter.” The psalmist uses a vivid metaphor of new life to describe the utter relief of the returning refugees: “Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves.”

These readings are deliberately paired this Sunday with one of the most memorable Gospel stories, Jesus’ healing the blind man Bartimaeus. Forced to beg by the side of the road in Jericho, Bartimaeus hears that Jesus the healer is passing by, and he begins to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” People crowded around Jesus try to silence Bartimaeus, but he refuses and “kept calling out all the more.”

Jesus hears him and calls him to come close. “Take courage, get up, Jesus is calling you,” the same voices of rejection now say. And Jesus puts to Bartimaeus the invitation we would all long to hear: “What do you want me to do for you?” “Master, I want to see,” Bartimaeus responds.

Anyone who reads this story realizes that in asking to “see,” Barnabas’ earnest request goes beyond the level of physical sight, as precious as that is. “I want to see” the truth, the beauty of life, the purpose and meaning of my life. Deep longings like these, and more, are compressed into Bartimaeus’ moment with the Lord of life.

His acts of courage, both to claim his dignity despite the discouragements of the crowd, and to address his need to Jesus, are rewarded. “Go your way, your faith has saved you.” And from that moment, Mark’s Gospel notes, he received his sight and followed Jesus.

What is the connection to our refugee crisis? Unlike many of us, Jesus hears the voice not of a blind beggar, but of a human being in need. He sees a child of God worthy of respect and dignity. He does not see someone pushed to the margins, but one whose deepest longings for a life of safety and meaning are not unlike our own.

These Sunday readings don’t solve the refugee crisis for our country, but they do challenge us as Christians to not tune out the voices of our fellow human beings nor be indifferent to their needs.


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