1st Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-9; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 5:1-6; Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
THEME: CHRIST, OUR ETERNAL HIGH PRIEST HEALS OUR SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS.
Poor governance, marginalization, nepotism, tribalism, and downplay of justice, equity and fairness, have been the major factors that stimulate community feuds, insurgency, kidnapping, banditry and violence resulting in gruesome killings and destruction of properties in our society today. These have engendered incessant deterioration of affairs in many parts of the world, feeling of estrangement, hopelessness, discouragement and serious tension in the atmosphere. Consequently, many people have been wondering why these prevalent cataclysms persist, and also why God allows our society to remain in quagmire without any intervention. The answer is very clear: we are spiritually blind.
In the FIRST READING, due to the triviality of God’s instructions given by the prophets, the Israelites were captured by their enemies (brutal leaders), and were sent to exile where they suffered grievously. They became spiritually blind and thus, wandered away from God’s marvelous light into darkness for a long period of time because of their sins. When their situation aggravated, they cried bitterly and entreated the LORD to have mercy on them. Subsequently, out of His infinite mercy and love, God later answered their prayers, and through prophet Jeremiah, promised to restore them; that is, the blind, lame, downtrodden etc., back from hopelessness and slavery (blindness) to freedom (sight).
Certainly, this is the same predicament that is bedeviling our contemporary society. When any nation trivializes God’s instructions, He steps aside and allows them to wallow in darkness (spiritual blindness). This is evident in the book of Psalms: “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! Then I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn my hand against their foes (Psalms 81:11-14).” Undoubtedly, we all have neglected God’s instructions, and have become spiritually blind; that is why He allows our enemies to subjugate us. However, if we can humble ourselves and entreat the LORD like the Israelites, then our restoration would come speedily.
In today’s GOSPEL, the promise made by God for the restoration of Israel in the first reading, has been fulfilled in the healing of Bartimaeus (blind beggar). He had been in that hopeless situation for a very long time, waiting eagerly for divine intervention. When he heard that Jesus Christ was passing by, he did not want to miss that opportunity, even when people discouraged him. Hence, he cried out immediately: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!” When Jesus asked him what he wanted, his response was, “Master, let me see again” (Mark 10:51). Through his faith, he was miraculously healed, and instantly, he regained his sight through Christ, the light of the world (John 8:12).
Obviously, Bartimaeus here symbolizes the deplorable situation of humanity; especially those who lack faith in God; those that are sinfully malodorous, or those suffering grievously, but are sincerely longing for liberation. Sometimes, like Bartimaeus, there could be obstacles (societal problems) which may tend to frustrate us in our life journey. We usually encounter a lot of discouragements accruing from poor governance, marginalization, injustice, unemployment, hardship, sickness, wrong advice etc., especially from people that are very close to us, who may even want us to remain in perpetual agony.
Nevertheless, we should not be discouraged by such dissuasions, rather we should continue to make persistent efforts like Bartimaeus, who had strong faith and trust in the gracious mercy and healing power of Jesus Christ (Holy Eucharist), and never allowed himself to be silenced or discouraged by the crowd. Consequently, his perseverance and open confession earned for him the miraculous restoration of his sight. So we should have faith, hope and trust in Jesus Christ who has the power to deliver us from such deplorable conditions, that is, our spiritual blindness, in order for us to see clearly and to love sincerely. For whenever we fail to love God and our fellow human being sincerely, then we are spiritually blind.
Fortunately, as elucidated in the SECOND READING, God has given us an eternal High Priest in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, who offered once and for all, His own body on the cross as a sacrificial lamb for the sins of all humankind. Since sin breaks the relationship which exists between God and man, and creates a barrier between them, hence, Christ’s sacrifice restores that relationship and removes that barrier (Hebrews 9:11-28).
Moreover, Jesus Christ, having gone through the experiences of humankind and understands humanity in all its strength and weakness, He is always sympathetic with her. That was why towards the end of His public ministry, He instituted the Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist as a sacramental expression of His paschal mystery. The priesthood is not an office which someone takes upon himself; it is a privilege and a glory to which he is called. This ministry of God among men is neither a job nor a career but a calling (Hebrews 5:4).
Therefore, an ordained priest is appointed on behalf of people to deal with the things concerning God, especially to offer sacrifices to God and to shepherd people’s souls. He acts in the person of Christ (in persona Christi Capitis). His three primary duties (munera) which are modeled by Christ Himself, are: (1) To Teach (munus docendi), based on Christ’s role as a Prophet; (2) To sanctify (munus sanctificandi), based on Christ’s role as a Priest; and (3) To Govern (munus regendi), based on Christ’s role as a King. Hence, through these duties, the priest heals people from spiritual blindness when he prays for them; preaches the gospel to them; baptizes them; celebrates the Holy Eucharist; absorbs their sins at the confessional; unites couples in marriage, and anoints the sick among them.
Finally, we should always give thanks to the Almighty God who has given us victory in Christ Jesus, the eternal High Priest, who is able to heal our spiritual wounds and restore us from hopelessness and slavery to freedom (1 Cor. 15:57; Rom. 8:11). So, we need to avoid the occasions of sin, which tend to subject us to deplorable conditions. Even when we sin, we shouldn’t hesitate to meet a priest for confession and absolution. Also not to create more obstacles for those in difficulties, but to render our help to them. To forgive those that have offended us since we have received healing from God. However, we cannot achieve this on our own effort, but through the help of the Holy Spirit. For when the Holy Spirit heals us from spiritual blindness, then we will be able to see clearly to understand what it means to follow Christ faithfully.
Therefore, I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may heal you from your spiritual weakness or blindness, and then shade His divine light up you, so that you may see His wondrous deeds clearly in order to Love Him and your fellow human being sincerely, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.