Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Fisherman's Net for October 25, Proper 25B, 22nd Sunday After Pentecost

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. 
For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
Hebrews 7:23-28

 It was a dry, dusty day: hot. It was the sort of day that led many people to look for cool places to weather the heat. Still, those forced to wait at the city gates and by the wayside in order to beg for pennies and bits of left-over food and wine couldn't take the day off. There are no days off when you have to rely on the charity of passersby in order to survive. Who are the beggars? Women who are widowed and childless who are unable or unwilling to sell themselves. Those unable to work, who lack family to care for them: the lame, the blind, the mentally ill. They cluster together at intervals that give them just enough space to be able to claim the attention of a traveler and hopefully convince them through their charm and chatter (or their pathetic and sad estate) to toss a few coins into the bowl or onto the cloth spread in front of them.

Beggars like this don't have names, or faces that we can remember. We allow that they are human, but are also to be avoided. They play their role, in their place and in their time....but their job is not to impede progress or demand attention in an unseemly way. Their job is to live, and sadly to die on the fringe.

You have met them. You have seen, or chosen not to see them. You have been kind and have given (perhaps even when you had little to give). You have looked away and turned away, even when you had a little extra in your pocket that would probably not be missed. Sometimes, they are kind, polite...even socially acceptable. Sometimes they are frightening, overbearing, menacing in their hunger, their want, their need.

We meet someone like this in Sunday's Gospel. Bartimaeus: the blind man who has no name of his own, only that he is "son of Timaeus. [side note....Bartimaeus is the only person healed who has a name in the Gospel of Mark...and the only one who calls out to him as the "son of David." Bartimaeus is the only one who "sees" Jesus for who he really is]

The blind man hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, and immediately begins to create an unseemly ruckus. He shouts, and will not be restrained. He is more than persistent, this person who should be in the shadows. He cries out for the attention of the son of David, for whose mercy he pleads.

This is a guy who is breaking all the rules of begging. He is to loud. He is too visible. He is like a speck of sand caught inside an oyster's shell. No matter what is expressed in order to deal with him, he remains.

Jesus sees him, and in return for his persistence is asked a question we all hope Jesus would ask of us. It is the invitation to ask of the Savior what we would have him do for us.

What would you ask for of the Christ?

Bartimaeus asks for his sight. Simple enough, but what a thing for which to ask! Why? Because the blind man is asking to be relieved not only of his affliction, but also of his way of being in the present moment. All he knows, and is able to accomplish, is based on being NOT sighted. If he sees, then he has to change, evolve and grow. He has to be willing to embrace a life that is now what he knows, what is familiar, what is predictable (even if it is awful, at least he knows what to expect!).

Of all the people who are healed by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, few embrace that gift as willingly or as vigorously as does the blind man on the road from Jericho. As well, he models a way of following Jesus that should both excite us and terrify us: that Jesus is ready and willing to give what we ask, and that when we receive we have to be ready for a whole new existence as what follows. That existence means we don't get to choose blindness or avoidance any more. We see now, more clearly than ever before what we are called to as servants of the Messiah.

We do that in the company of a man who is no longer blind....a sighted beggar who is no longer invisible to us.

We are to see, and to be seen.

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