We conclude our message series this week that we’ve been calling, Holy Triage. In this series, we have been scanning through the aspects of our spiritual lives that needs healing. Today we are asking God to open the eyes of our minds and make us see again thereby overcoming our spiritual blindness.
Physical blindness is a tragedy because it keeps us from seeing what is around us, but an even greater tragedy is spiritual blindness. This type of blindness keeps us from seeing and understanding the Truth in the Bible. Spiritual blindness is a symbol of a weakened and impaired spiritual vision. In this kind of blindness, we don’t see the splendor of God, nor do we see as God wants us to see. To be spiritually blind is not to see Christ, and not to see Christ is not to see God (Colossians 1:15-16). Physical blindness in the gospels has a great significance, representing the human need for God’s light, the light of faith. We need to ask God to help us overcome this kind of blindness.
In today’s Gospel, the blind Bartimaeus represents our collective human situation that is constantly yearning for healing and liberation from all sorts of limitations. The blindness might not necessarily be the physical loss of vision, but spiritual ignorance that limits our relationship with others and with God.
Hence, todays Gospel teaches us that to be free from these limitations, we must humbly accept them. Secondly, by constantly reminding ourselves that, “Our help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 95:8), we must humbly ask for help from Jesus Christ. So like the blind man in our gospel, we must cry out to the Lord in faith for healing: “Lord that I might see.” However, it is important to know that Bartimaeus did not believe because he was cured. Rather, he was cured because he had faith in Christ who said, “Your faith has cured you.” Faith is very important in our daily walk and encounter with Jesus Christ. To see is to have a living faith in Christ.
When Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus, the crowd around him tries to silence him. Yet Bartimaeus persists in calling out more loudly and with greater urgency. He will not be deterred from getting the attention of Jesus. We noticed how quickly the crowd reaction changes when Jesus calls for Bartimaeus. Those who sought to quiet him now encourage him. And once his sight was restored, Bartimaeus followed Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. Both his physical and spiritual sight were restored.
Jesus Christ wants to heal our spiritual blindness so that we can see through our lives and grow in holiness and compassion for others. What will you say when He asks you what He inquired of Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” You might answer and say: “Lord enlighten me that I may see everything through your eyes; help me follow you and keep me close to you. Should I stray, bring me back to you. Help me serve you by giving of myself for others so that one day you will welcome me into your kingdom.”
--Father Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
As we continue to examine spiritual maladies in our Sunday message series called, Holy Triage, we turn this week to the problem of control. The fourth-century saint, doctor, and bishop of the Church, Augustine of Hippo, wrote a famous autobiography that outlines his sinful youth and eventual conversion to Christianity. In what are known simply as, The Confessions, he admits that for too long he attempted to find joy in worldly pleasures and addresses God openly and honestly: “You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you.”
Many of us could write the same story. Preoccupied with temporal affairs, distracted by earthly pleasures, caught up with worldly concerns, God often takes a back seat. We convince ourselves that it’s the result of simple negligence symptomatic of our busy, rushed, and chaotic lives. We don’t mean to ignore the one who breathed life into us, saved us from our sins, and longs to give our lives meaning and purpose; it’s just an honest mistake.
But the truth more often is that our inattention results from the desire to control our destiny rather than surrender to God’s will. At the lowest point in Jesus’ life when he knew that he soon would be arrested, beaten, and killed, he cried out to his Father from the depths of despair. In the Garden of Gethsemane, “he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’” (Mark 14:35-36).
The Lord’s response to the uncertainty that awaited in his darkest hour was to surrender control to God, a far cry from the demands of James and John in this weekend’s gospel reading. The two disciples “came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you’” (Mark 10:35). Turns out that what they wanted was absolute power represented in the ancient near eastern world as being seated in places of honor on the king’s right and left-hand side. When Jesus asks whether they can drink from his “cup,” a metaphor of surrendering to a destiny controlled by God, they too easily agree in order to finagle the outcome they desire.
Indeed, surrender is a word that has many negative connotations. Songs and sayings that tell us to “never surrender” resonate deeply with us. However, when it comes to the Christian faith, surrender is absolutely necessary. We surrender to God who is, in all ways, more powerful and stronger. We surrender our ways for his ways. To learn more about the problem of control and how we can overcome it, tune in to this week’s message at church or on our website.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Our current Sunday message series, Holy Triage, encourages us to examine how healthy we really are in various areas of our lives, like setting priorities, keeping commitments, and relating to others. Our scrutiny this week is on the practice of faith. As in most measures of salubrity, our level of spiritual health can be evaluated by probing both for errors and omissions.
Obviously, neglecting God and faith will never lead to spiritual growth. For this reason, we’re always working to become a church that people who don’t like church like, so you’ll feel comfortable inviting your unchurched friends to Mass. But in addition to omissions, unhealthy religion also can spring from errors like distorted beliefs and one-sided practices. In contrast, a healthy faith life depends on finding the right balance in many areas, three of which are discussed below.
1.Clerics and Laity.
Jesus Christ established his Church and appointed leaders to act in persona Christi Capitas—in the person of Christ the Head. Never truly absent from his flock, he makes his own action present through priests who carry out the three offices of teaching, sanctifying, and governing. But clericalism eventually transformed the clergy into a privileged elite and promoted their interests and importance over that of the laity. Though Vatican II clarified the absolute equality of laity and clergy, many Catholics still have not fully grasped the dignity of their baptism and essential role in the mission of the Church. At Saint Brendan, however, our program of spiritual growth outside of Sunday Mass relies almost exclusively on a core of small groups led by lay facilitators, because we believe the best way for Catholics to grow in faith is to learn from each other.
2.Devotions and Liturgy.
The Church has been enriched over the years by popular devotions and pious practices, such as novenas, veneration of relics, processions in honor of Mary and the other saints, as well as the use of sacred objects like holy water, scapulars, and candles to permeate everyday life with prayer to God. When distorted, however, popular piety can weaken attention to the liturgy and core truths of our faith. An excessive focus on statues, images, and miraculous medals, for example, may reduce these sacramentals to mere good luck charms, rather than disposing us to receive the sacraments and hear the preached Word of God.
3.Piety and Practice.
Ever come across a crabby Catholic praying the rosary? Too often, church people focus on personal prayer to the exclusion of the needs of their neighbor. Likewise, champions of charity often neglect worship in favor of helping the poor. Both instances result from a dangerous imbalance between piety and practice. As I’ve said before, church is a movement of people in the same direction. Our mission established by our founder two thousand years ago is to make disciples of Christ, which requires both prayer and real outreach.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
During our message series, Holy Triage, we’ve been looking at several areas that create a considerable amount of stress and anxiety for people and offering some Bible-based advice about what to do. We’re encouraging you to reflect on those areas in which you might need some healing or at least a shot in the arm when it comes to spiritual wellness.
So far, we’ve considered the problems of setting good priorities, avoiding social competition, and committing to what matters most in life. To learn more about these topics, listen to related messages on our website. This week, we look at the problem of unhealthy relationships.
At the beginning of time, our Creator said, “It is not good for the man to be alone,” and so made a “suitable partner” for him (Genesis 2:18). Indeed, God made us for communion with one another. Whether the relationship is one of marriage, family, friendship, colleagues, or teammates, we were created to be “intersubjective” beings that need each other in order to live fully.
Despite this, wherever people gather, there will be trouble. In the workplace, at school, in social clubs and groups, and especially in families and other close relationships, people will hurt and take advantage of each other, seek their own interests, trample boundaries, and tear down the ones they love most.
This is nowhere more evident than in the relationship of marriage, which in this week’s gospel Jesus says should never be dissolved. However, one key to managing unhealthy relationships can be found in the rather unexpected place of divorce. As a Catholic priest, I help divorced people seek the annulment of their marriages through the Church. Though difficult, annulments often bring a sense of healing because, unlike divorce, the process discourages accusation and assignment of blame, but rather asks each spouse to consider how he or she contributed to the problems inherent at the very beginning of the marital relationship.
Last weekend, I attended the annual conference of an international Catholic ministry called Retrouvaille that helps couples heal and renew their hurting marriages before divorce happens. That process begins with an intense weekend experience that also involves deep introspection into the brokenness that each spouse has brought into the marriage. Couples are not allowed to shift the blame to each other, but instead look to themselves, the masks they wear, and the personal issues they struggle with that have weakened the marriage.
You might call this “the problem of me,” and it applies not only to marriage, but to every relationship. Turning unhealthy relationships into truly satisfying ones is simple but definitely not easy, because it requires, first and foremost, to point the finger at yourself.
To learn more about the spiritual problem of unhealthy relationships and how to overcome it, listen to this week’s message at church or on our website.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson