03 March 2011

Hey! I think he's calling you. . .

8th Week OT (Th)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatula

In the Southern Baptist tradition, Sunday morning and Wednesday night services always end with an “altar call.” While the pianist softly plays “The Old Rugged Cross” in the background, the preacher exhorts sinners to come forward and take Jesus into their hearts, “Dontcha hear Jesus calling you, brothers and sisters?! Callin' you to his cross!” Some will come forward to meet the deacon at the rail and leave the church “saved.” They answered the call, and they were healed. True to their tradition, this particular Baptist liturgical practice is deeply rooted in scripture. The blind man, Bartimaeus, hears that Jesus is near. He begins to call out to Jesus, “Son of David, have pity on me!” The crowd tries to shush him, but Bartimaeus continues to cry out. Finally, Jesus says, “Call him,” and those nearest the blind man, say to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” Bartimaeus obeys, telling Jesus that he wants to see again. The man's sight is restored, and Jesus goes on to Jerusalem. Let's not get sidetracked by the healing miracle in this story. Without a doubt it is an important element, but Jesus himself doesn't make much of a fuss about the healing itself. No prayers, no gestures, no exclamations of astonishment from the crowd. Just the faith of a blind man and his cry for compassion. If there's a fuss made in the story, it happens when the crowd tries to silence Bartimaeus and Jesus' call gives him the courage to ask for healing. “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” 

You may have never had an actual crowd rushing around you, or a horde of people yelling at you to shut up, but you have probably felt at times that the people and circumstances in your life were trying to choke you into silence, trying to strangle your pleas for divine help. So much busyness, so much worry, so many problems with no relief in sight. Everyone clamoring for attention: family and friends in need; co-workers demanding your time and energy; sick and dying relatives; bill-collectors, banks, the IRS, and a whole gang of others grasping at you to notice them, care for them, give them what they want. In the middle of this small chaos, there you are—exhausted; your mind addled; your spirit on the verge of collapse; no where to hide. Like Bartimaeus, you need to be healed, so you cry out, “Son of David, have pity on me!” And all those nagging, clamoring voice say, “Be quiet! You're embarrassing us and yourself. Just shut up and deal with it! We were here first.” Hearing your plea above the racket of the crowd, Christ says, “Call him. Call her.” The voices change. Now they say, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” 

Courage is the good habit of doing the right thing even when you are scared witless. Or even when you are exhausted—physically, mentally, spiritually. Or even when you think the right thing to do is foolish, dangerous, or just plain dumb. Bartimaeus cries out for Christ's compassion while being rebuked by a mob. He cries out twice for pity, and Jesus responds by crying out for him. The man's courageous pleas are heard and answered, and his public expressions of faith restore his sight. He is healed and he does the only thing he can to express his gratitude: he follows Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. Bartimaeus doesn't know what waits of our Lord in the Holy City. Jesus knows and we know. To follow him all the way to the cross is foolish, dangerous, exhausting, and probably just plain dumb. But we've been called by Christ himself to follow. So, “take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”

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  1. I have a question about Bartimaeus. The text says, "Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus". But doesn't 'bar' mean, 'son of', like Simon bar Jonah (Simon, son of Jonah). So, is that really his name, or is he 'anonymous' (for lack of a better phrase) so that we might image ourselves as Bartimaeus?

    P.S. If that didn't make any sense, you're not alone in thinking that. lol

  2. Ranter, yes, you are correct. However, local folks would've known Bartimaeus like everyone knows me as "Glenn and Becky's oldest."