Reverend Msgr. Esteban Lo, LRMS, Chaplain of the Chapel of the Eucharistic Lord here in SM Megamall and National Director of the Pontifical Mission Society, brother priests concelebrating in the Mass, dear deacons, seminarians, brothers and sisters in the Lord, our gospel for today for the World Mission Sunday is the story of Bartimaeus, the blind man from Jericho.
At first glance, it does not seem to be related to the theme of missions but in truth, there is a connection. After all, today’s passage has important things to say to us about prayer. And for many of us, it is especially through prayer that we express our support for our brothers and sisters who are working in the missions, striving to bring the good news of Christ’s salvific love.
In the gospel, the blind man, Bartimaeus, makes an intense and insistent prayer of supplication. He says, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And he shouts even louder, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Now the prayer of supplication, the prayer of request has two essential elements and both of these elements appear in today’s gospel account.
The first is the awareness of needing the Lord. The blind in today’s gospel definitely has this awareness although it is rather confused. Bartimaeus knows that he needs his sight and so, he shouts out loud. He cannot keep quiet because he is aware of his miserable state and he wants to get out of it.
The second condition is trust. Without trust, there is no prayer. There will only be discouragement and desperation. However, if in our misery, there is trust then, we can pray. And that is why, Jesus tells Bartimaeus, “Your faith has saved you.” Indeed, the blind man’s awareness of his own misery is accompanied by faith in the power and in the mercy of the Lord. Bartimaeus prays, he shouts and then he is heard. And he is able to glorify God.
Dear friends, these two elements – awareness of one’s condition and trust in the Lord are important conditions in the prayer of supplication. The awareness of our miserable state should not bring us sadness because it is actually a premise, even a pre-requisite for authentic prayer. It makes us turn to God with a sincere plea to be healed. Indeed, we should not close ourselves in our misery, but instead, we must turn to God and say to him, “Lord, you see how miserable I am and how I need you. I believe that you and your goodness will pity me and heal me. Then our prayer will be heard and we can give praise to God for his infinite mercy.
Now, aside from teaching us how to make a prayer of supplication, today’s gospel also reminds us that prayer has a communal dimension. This is something that unfortunately we sometimes forget because quite often, we are simply concerned about ourselves. But prayer, if it is truly authentic …others, it involves others.
In the Lucan version of the same episode, Luke narrates that once the prayer of Bartimaeus is heard, it becomes a prayer of praise. And it widens to include others. The Lucan text says Bartimaeus followed him giving glory to God. When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.
But even in Mark’s version, prayers communal aspect also emerges. Notice that the others play a role in bringing Bartimaeus to Jesus. The call of Jesus does not reach a blind man directly. Someone is tasked to transmit this. Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So, they called the blind man saying to him, “Take courage, get up. Jesus is calling you.”
Dear friends, sometimes, when we are too absorbed with our own concerns, supplicating or praying to the Lord only for ourselves and our needs, we may tend to forget that we are also called to become concerned about others, to help others and to bring others to Christ. We are also on mission.
Take courage, get up. Jesus is calling you. We are called to encourage others, to give them hope, to boost their morale. We are called to help others to get up, to start a new and not to put them down. We are called to bring others to Christ to remind them that Jesus is calling them by name and that only Jesus can bring healing and meaning to our lives. We are also on mission.
Our gospel today clearly has important points to teach us about prayer. And it reminds us too, that we are on mission.
Dear brothers and sisters, as we pray for our own needs and concerns, let us also pray for our missionaries who are working in various parts of the world. May they persevere in their mission. May they lead many people to Jesus and may they all bear witness to the compassion on Christ, Amen. (RCAM-AOC | Photo by Rian Salamat/RCAM-AOC)