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Ask First for Sight

October 28, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

October 28, 2018
Mark 12:28-34
Fr. George Smiga

To appreciate today’s gospel in which Jesus heals the beggar Bartimaeus, we should remember last week’s gospel in which Jesus has a conversation with the apostles James and John. In both gospels Jesus asks the exact same question, “What do you want me to do for you?”. But, the answers in the two gospels are very different. James and John ask that they sit at Jesus’ right and left when he comes into his glory. Bartimaeus says, “Master I want to see.” James and John ask for glory and power. Bartimaeus asks for sight and understanding. Jesus tells James and John that he cannot grant their request, but he immediately responds to Bartimaeus, and the beggar receives his sight.

When we place these two gospels side by side, they tell us that sight is more important than glory, that understanding is more to be desired than power.  And, this is an important message because you and I, like James and John, are attracted to power. We seek the ability to make things happen, to get things done. We want the power to bring about that which is good. We look at our children and say, “I want to make sure that they grow into mature and successful adults.” We look at someone we care for who is struggling with addiction and say, “I want this addiction to end.” Today’s gospel tells us that before we ask Jesus for the power to do those things, we should first ask to see. We should see our children as the gifted and unique people that they are, because if we can love them as they are today, it is more likely that they will grow into the adults they need to be. We should see the person who is struggling with addiction as someone captive to fear and shame, because if we can recognize what enslaves a person and stand with them in their brokenness, it is more likely that they will be successful in recovery.

We look at the partisan divisions that mar our political scene, the way that personal attacks substitute for public discourse, and we want it to stop. We long for a country characterized by civility and honest debate. We look at the scandal in our church of sexual abuse, and we want it to go away. Today’s gospel tells us that before we ask for the power to do something, we should ask for the ability to see—to see the anger and prejudice that fuel the political divide, to see the weakness and sinfulness that allow sexual abuse to continue. It is only when we see and understand the brokenness of our political and church systems that we will be able to rebuild them.

We all want to have the power to do good things. That is why James and John asked for it. But Bartimaeus reminds us that first we should ask to see, because it is only when we see and understand the world as it really is, that we will be able to make the world what God wants it to be.

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