Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
Instead of blaming God, seek God. Yesterday, I had breakfast with a mom of four wonderful young kids. Her life has been nothing but amazing. She’s been battling (and winning) cancer now for four years. I can’t begin to tell you what a powerful witness she’s become to faith, hope and love. She is a living saint!
While we sat and ate, our conversation was very casual, shifting from raising kids to oatmeal types! But at a certain moment, it went from casual to spiritual to highly personal. She surprised me when she told me how God had inspired her prior to her cancer diagnosis. “For some strange reason, I was reflecting one morning as to how great my life was. It was then that I told God, ‘Lord, if you want me to suffer for others, then I’m okay with me.’” In effect, she was giving God permission to do whatever He wanted with her. Not too long after that, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She did not blame God. Instead, she sought God in a more intimate way. She has united herself to The Son in every possible way: in His suffering, in His compassion, in His mission. She sees her life as a blessing, a gift to be given to others. She’s definitely not perfect. But she gets it. She knows what life is all about: witnessing to Jesus Christ. Her faith, hope and love have brought about the conversion of many in and around our parish.
She told me the story of a crossing guard who’s been at our school for years. One day, she asked him to pray for her. He agreed. That was four years ago. A few days ago she asked him if he was still praying for her. He said to her the following: “I will never forget the day you asked me to pray for you. I said I would. But what you didn’t know is that I hadn’t prayed in years. I don’t know. I just never did it. But I figured that I would pray for you since you were always so nice to me and because you had so many young kids. I began to pray that day and I haven’t stopped praying ever since. You changed my life. You changed it for good.”
This story nearly brought tears to my eyes. Ah, what I could do if I would only stop blaming God for things and start seeking Him in all things!
Bartimaeus, the blind man, could not see; and yet, he was still able to believe. Is 20/20 vision a must in order to believe in God? Apparently not. If you think about it, no one can “see” God, and as incredible as this miracle was, its meaning goes deeper than mere sight. The healing of the blind man is a proper response to all those people in the world who use their perfect vision as an excuse for unbelief. Where is God? I can’t see Him! Again, perfect vision has nothing to do with belief in God.
Today’s Gospel passage makes obvious certain things: (1) the problem with unbelievers isn’t that they cannot “literally” see God. That’s not the problem, for it wasn’t a problem for the blind man; (2) their problem has nothing to do with human suffering. That’s not it either, for even the blind man was a beggar, and begging all day long is like suffering all day; (3) the problem with unbelievers isn’t that they see so much evil in the world today. Again, the beggar might not have “seen” evil around him, but he definitely experienced it, especially in the way he was treated by strangers and neighbors. So then what is it? Well, maybe the “Atheist cannot find God for the same reason a thief cannot find a policeman.” Maybe it’s because they don’t want to.
The blind man’s story is being retold in the countless number of people who suffer from illness, loneliness, and tragedy. It is being retold in the life of this mother of four kids. It is being retold in the lives of those who suffered in Newtown, in New Jersey, in Oklahoma, in Boston and in Texas.
Belief in God has a lot to do with seeing, but not with one’s eyes; rather, with one’s heart.
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