Weekly Reflection (24 Oct 2021)

30th Sunday Year B

Jeremiah 31:7-9
Hebrews 5:1-6
Mark 10:46-52

What do I want Jesus to do for me?

Am I totally contented with my life? For most of us, we would say no. This is in spite many of us living in a peaceful country, having a stable job, a roof over our head and food on the table. Why is that? Mostly, it is because we live in a materialistic and individualistic world. We are lured by the glitters of the secular world and we are ambitious. Hence, no matter how rich, how powerful or how successful I am, there is always the next thing I want – a bigger house, a flashier car, a promotion, more wealth, more power, more influence. Many spend their whole life chasing one quest after another, and yet never finding contentment even until the day they die. Without true contentment, we remained unfulfilled and unhappy all of our life. This is a great tragedy. So we ask ourselves: Why is my heart so restless? How do I find rest, contentment and true happiness? My brothers and sisters, this is precisely the reason Jesus came into the world. He promised us, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” To us Christians, these words are not foreign to us. But yet, why am I still not finding contentment? What am I missing?

In the previous week’s Gospel, we heard how James and John came to Jesus with a request. And Jesus asked them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” (Mk 10:36). In this week’s Gospel, in a story that follows immediately from last week’s, a blind man called Bartimaeus came to Jesus with a request. And Jesus asked him the same question, “What do you want me to do for you?” (verse 50). James, John and Bartimaeus are on a quest, and they wanted something from our Lord. My brothers and sisters, we too are on a quest. Let us ask ourselves, what would my answer be today if Jesus asks me this same question: “What do you want me to do for you?” Would I ask for more wealth, more power and more influence? In fact, these were what James and John asked for. They wanted to sit at the right and left side of Jesus in His glory (Mk 10:36). We may ask, what is wrong with a quest for heavenly glory? While the quest for heavenly glory may seem noble enough, but that was not James and John were asking for. Think about it, when we enter heaven as children of God, we become joint heirs with Jesus (Rom 8:16-17). At that time, we would be completely fulfilled. We cannot ask for anything more as we would be completely satisfied. The truth is, heavenly glory was not what James and John were really asking for. What they were asking for was something very earthly and secular – they wanted lordship over the rest of the heavenly citizens. That is why “when the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.” (Mk 10:41)

In many ways, we are like James and John. They have been following Jesus for a while now, but they were unable to break free from their secular mind sets. Just like James and John, we have been coming to Church to worshipping God; and just like them, many of us are unable to break free from secularism. And just as James’ and John’s worldliness created division among the Apostles, many of us take our worldliness into our church communities, creating conflicts and power struggles. In truth, many of us are Christians in name only. While we say our prayers and are familiar with our Bible verses, these are but head knowledge to us. The words of God are not in our hearts. We are no different from the world.

So what must we do instead? In this week’s Gospel, in answer to the same question “What do you want me to do for you?”, Bartimaeus replied, “Let me see again” (verse 51). Bartimaeus did not ask for more wealth, more power or more influence. He simply asked for sight. My brothers and sisters, Jesus is asking us the same question now: “What do you want me to do for you?” Like Bartimaeus, let us ask for sight. But what is it that I want Jesus to help me see? Firstly, some of us habour hurt from the past and we are unable to see past that. For the person who hurt and betrayed us, we are unable to recognise that this person too is a son or daughter of God, loved by God. By His love, Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Mt 5:44). If we are unable to see past our past hurt, we will find ourselves unable to forgive, unable to move on and continue to hurt. Secondly, some of us are unable to see past our own sins. May be we are not well-formed enough to know we are wrong; or more likely, too proud to admit we are wrong. As we continue to sin, we are unable to reconcile with others that we hurt. We are unable to reconcile with God. In this way, the Reconciliation Rite we celebrate with God become mere rituals, unable to transform us, unable to help us put on a heart like Jesus. Thirdly, some of us are unable to see past our shame. We did something we are shameful of; we hurt somebody; and we are unable to say sorry – not to the person we hurt and not even to ourselves. While God had forgiven us, we are unable to forgive ourselves. So we live in perpetual sorrow. We are stuck at the crucifixion on Good Friday, unable to move on to the joy of resurrection on Easter Sunday.

My brothers and sisters, in truth, a quest for sight is a quest to see the truth. It is the truth that we are all sinners and yet loved by God; that there is beauty in everyone of us, even our enemies; that all of us need God’s mercy. For what is God’s mercy but Jesus dying on the cross? In the Second Reading this week, St Paul describes how the earthly high priest “is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness” (verse 2). Unlike the earthly high priest, Jesus our heavenly high priest is sinless. Yet as St Paul explained to the Corinthians, “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21) Like the earthly high priest, Jesus too deals gently with us sinners because He too is subject to weakness – except it is not His own weakness he is subject to but ours. This is mercy.

The First Reading takes place in the context of the Israelites’ exile to Babylon. Because of their sins, God allowed the Israelites to go into exile and to suffer in the hands of the Babylonians. In the context of the revelation of Jesus, the Israelites’ sufferings must not be seen as a vengeful God punishing the people for their sins. Rather the exile is a time of reflection and purification for Israelites, to help them turn away from sins and return to God. The First Reading foretold the return of the Israelites from their exile to return to the Promised Land. By their repentance and sufferings, the Israelites’ earlier disobedience was atoned. God showed His mercy and led the people back to their homeland. For those of us who cannot see past our worldly quest of wealth, power, influence, like the Israelites, we too are in exile. We too are in need of reflection and purification. Like Bartimaeus, let us ask Jesus for spiritual sight. For the Israelites, they need to see past their hurt, sins and shame before they can be restored to their homeland. So it is with us. We can only overcome our past hurt, our sins and our shame through repentance. “With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble” (verse 9).

My brothers and sisters. Let us embrace the truth. Let my heart be restless no more. As St Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Amen.

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