October 25, 2009


He received his sight & followed him on the way. – Mk 10: 52

Of all the Evangelists, Mark is hardest on the Apostles for being thick, muddled, & not getting it. What did they fail to get? Listen to this: Discipleship with Jesus means an upside-down world where the first are last & the last first, where one forgives one’s enemies 70 x 70 times, where the one who loses his life will save it, where proud fathers run to their wayward sons rather then the other way around, where one gives his coat when only asked for a shirt, where enemies are to be prayed for, good deeds are to be done in secret, & the one who wishes to rule over all must be the servant of all.

That’s a tough mission statement & it won’t get you very far in a world of greed & me-first. No wonder the apostles had trouble seeing Jesus & His message, & even if they did see, they didn’t want to & pretended to be blind. Yes, seeing like our Lord brings a lot of difficulties. Here is a true story of how some people see:

In May 1945 a young soldier named Stephen Shields was part of the American troops that entered the town of Nordhausen where they liberated the infamous concentration camp where thousands of Hungarian Jews had been murdered. A few hundred prisoners were all that remained & they were walking skeletons. Shields says they didn’t even have the strength to speak. They moved silently, zombie-like, through the open prison doors & started walking toward the town of Nordhausen . They looked like an army of scarecrows, a column of living cadavers.

Shields says that on the road between the camp & the little village, the prisoners were encountered by two teenagers about 15 years old. They were blond, strong, & healthy looking. They gaped at the column of starving Jews, stopped in their tracks & then, says Shields, they began to laugh. They nudged each other, pointed at the pitiable prisoners, made comments, & continued to laugh uproariously. To them that sickening, suffering parade was just too funny for words. Shields says that of all the horrible experiences of the war, the banality, the lack of empathy, & the ridicule in the face of evil was the worst he experienced. Where Mother Teresa would have seen the suffering Christ, the boys saw the stuff of mockery. They sorely needed to pray, “Master, I want to see.”

The fact is that slick advertising, routine violence, & examples of greed & exploitation blindside all of us. Eventually we become like Mark’s version of the apostles: slow to understand our Lord’s message, slow to see what He sees, what the saints have seen.

That’s why we need to hear a Gospel like today’s. We need to enter into it, to identify with Bartemaeus, begging on the side of the road. We need to sense that Jesus is passing by in this Mass, in this assembly of yearners & believers. The truth is, if we will admit it, that in some areas of the heart, in some areas of the spirit, like the apostles in Mark we have misunderstood our Lord’s message, that we have spiritual blind spots.

In this liturgy Jesus is calling us, “What do you want me to do for you?” He asks. Right away we can think of a million things, but surely a truer, more reflective response would be that of Bartimaeus: “Lord, I want to see.” AMEN!