Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Either Different or Defectors

Either Different or Defectors
Thursday: Eighth week of the Year           May 26, 2016

Mark 10:46-52. Year I: Sirach 42:15-25; Psalm 33:2-9; Year II: 1Peter 2:2-12; Psalm 100:2-5.

The disciples are blind to what Jesus is telling them about his death and resurrection — and about not seeking power and prestige. Jesus is patient. These are hard lessons to learn. They are the root mystery of God’s way to establish a Kingdom “of justice, love and peace.” It is not the way of our human culture. But it is essential that we accept them, as Jesus pointed out forcefully to Peter (8:33).

So now Mark shows us a blind man recognizing Jesus. It is the first time he is publicly acclaimed with the messianic title (“Son of David” — see 2Samuel 7:12-16) by anyone who is not a demon (see 1:24, 34; 5:7). And Jesus does not tell him to be silent as he told the demons. The time for recognition is at hand, even if his disciples are slow to see what he is trying to teach them.

Jesus calls the blind man over and asks him the same question, using identical words, that he asked James and John when they wanted a favor (10:35-36): “What do you want me to do for you?” But the blind man asks for the right thing: “Teacher, I want to see!” The Jerome Biblical Commentary (1968) remarks that the contrast between what he asks and the apostles’ request for seats of honor “shows the blind man has seen better than they the nature of Jesus’ kingly authority: it stoops to serve.” Bartimaeus is asking for physical sight, but by giving Jesus the title Rabboni, “my teacher,” he is asking, whether aware of it or not, for spiritual vision as well. He wants to see the truth.

Jesus told his disciples, “You are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students” (Matthew 23:6-10). Jesus alone is Teacher. We teach only as pupils repeating what we have learned from him.  Fr. John McKenzie, S.J. (under “Rabbi,” Dictionary of the Bible, 1979), after pointing out that “Jesus finds fault with the pride which demands exaggerated respect” comments with uncharacteristic restraint, “The practice of Christians toward honorific titles has from early centuries treated this saying [of Jesus] as a pious and somewhat impractical hyperbole.” So much for the radical witness we should have been giving!

The Good News fails to impress people as good because Christians fail to live it as news. Paul VI said to “witness” means to live in such a way that our lifestyle “raises irresistible questions” that only the radical words of Jesus can answer. When we interpret his words to make them fit our cultural assumptions, we betray the Gospel. If we are not different, we are defectors.

Initiative: Give God’s life: Look at your lifestyle. What does it tell people about the Gospel?

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