Fr. Bryan Howard
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – 28 October 2018
There was a very intelligent young man who grow up in a home with a Catholic mother and a non-Catholic father. His mother was very religious, but his father wasn’t very religious at all. During his teenage years, he began to think of Catholicism as childish and silly. He slowly began to drift away from the Church. When he went to college, to study law, he fully left the Church. He eventually got his girlfriend pregnant and had her move in with him. He basically, according to his own words, lived for the pleasures of life. Does that story sound familiar to you? I’m talking about a specific person, but I bet almost everyone here knows someone like that. It may be a very modern story, but it actually happened 1600 years ago. I’m talking about St. Augustine of Hippo, priest, bishop, and Doctor of the Church.
St. Augustine was never satisfied with his life. The pursuit of pleasure didn’t give any lasting satisfaction and neither did his intellectual pursuits. He went from one philosophy and religion to another, searching for the truth. Then one day while he was sitting in a garden reflecting he heard the words, “Take, read.” He saw that there was a copy of the Bible next to him and he picked it up and started to read. Through prayer and study and with the help of his mother, St. Monica, and the local bishop, St. Ambrose of Milan, he came back to the faith of his childhood and was eventually ordained as a priest and latter a bishop. He knew that there was something wrong, something missing, and he never stopped searching for it. Eventually, his search lead him back to God.
Our Gospel today follows a similar pattern. Bartimaeus the blind man was sitting on the side of the road begging, when he heard a commotion. Someone told him that it was Jesus of Nazareth passing by, so Bartimaeus began to call out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on my.” He had obstacles in his way, too. The people around tried to shut him up and stop him from bothering Jesus, but he didn’t let it stop him. He knew that He needed help, and he knew that Jesus could help him, so he kept calling to Jesus even louder. Jesus heard him and called him over and asked what he wanted. He didn’t beat around the bush but he got right to the point, “Master, I want to see.” And Jesus replied, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
This is a true story with a spiritual lesson. Bartimaeus knows what he needs, his sight restored. He knows where he can get it, from Jesus, and he keeps going no matter what gets in his way. Jesus says that his faith has saved him, but he needs faith to get it. Compare Bartimaeus to another man Jesus helped at the pool of Siloam. He was crippled, and had been coming to that pool for 38 years hoping to be healed. Jesus asks him if he wants to be healed, but he makes excuses. He doesn’t even say yes. Then, later, he hands Jesus over to the Pharisees. Bartimaeus needed faith to see that only Jesus could help him.
We have disabilities, too, spiritual disabilities. Sin is a type of blindness. It blinds us to what is happening in our own soul and we don’t want to admit that we have a problem. The pleasures of this world can never fully satisfy us. The only thing that we seek for its own sake is happiness. Whether it’s eating good food, watching a movie, seeking political office, trying to become famous, or playing the lottery, everything you do is for something else. You play the lottery to get money, which you use to buy a new boat, which you use to go fishing, which makes you happy. You can do the same thing with every decision. We may not always be right that something will make us happy, but that’s what we ultimately want.
The problem with sin is that it only makes us happy in the short term and makes us miserable in the long term. Even good things only make us happy temporarily. You’ll eventually finish that meal and get hungry again, and that movie will end, and that boat will need repairs. Only God can make us truly happy for all eternity, because he made us to be in a relationship with Himself. There is a God-shaped hole in our hearts, and only God can fit in it. So, never stop seeking God. Don’t let any obstacle stop you, and know that God will never put anything in your path that you can’t get through with His help.
St. Augustine wrote the first autobiography, and I’ll finish with his own words about his search for God. In The Confessions, he wrote, “Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you! Behold, you were within me, while I was outside: it was there that I sought you, and, a deformed creature, rushed headlong upon these things of beauty which you have made. You were with me, but I was not with you…You have called to me, and have cried out, and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light, and have shone upon me, and you have put my blindness to flight!”
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.