In his first letter to the Thessalonians St. Paul tells them and us: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification:’ He is goes on to tell them what they need to do gain sanctification – holiness. He doesn’t give them the totality of the means but his words ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification:’ tells us the totality of God’s desire for us. If this is so important to God then it should a paradigmatic for us. Each of us should place our sanctification as our primary goal. With the help of God, His saints and His Holy Church we should live our lives in search for and protection of sanctification. We should stop at nothing to reach what God wants to us have and be – holiness and holy. When this level is reached we are sharing more fully in the life of God and can gain his eternal reward – heaven and the beatific vision.
This has more than a personal dimension – it is societal as well. St. Francis of Assisi wrote ‘Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.’ Our sanctification can instill in those around us the desire to follow the same path to sanctity; we build His kingdom one person at a time. After all, when standing in judgment in front of Christ I fear He will not only look to our own lives but to those we could have helped.
So, how do we go about gaining sanctification? The path is varied but the attitude is the same. Saint Josemaría Escrivá wrote: ‘The plane of sanctity our Lord asks of us is determined by these three points: holy steadfastness, holy forcefulness, and holy shamelessness’. In today’s gospel we see a great lesson in what Saint Josemaría was talking about.
For Saint Josemaría this means being firm in the faith, not abandoning a teaching or practice because it might give others a bad impression. Bartimaeus, when he hears that Christ is walking by starts to cry out something that would be blasphemous to the ruling class, indeed most inhabitants: ‘Jesus, son of David, have pity on me’. By calling Christ the Son of David Bartimaeus is declaring Jesus King. Bartimaeus continues to call out, not fearing what those around him might do. Holy Steadfastness.
For Saint Josemaría this means putting power behind our witness; or as we would say putting weight behind our conviction. When told to be quiet Bartimaeus called out even more.
For Saint Josemaría this means being unapologetic for one’s commitment to Jesus Christ. Bartimaeus is unapologetic throughout this gospel. He doesn’t apologize for believing in Christ as He walks by and obviously he follows Christ unapologetically after regaining his sight. Bartimaeus isn’t embolden by his new found sight as much as he is convinced and strengthened by who Christ is. Saint Josemaría explains Holy Shamelessness this way: ‘If you have holy shamelessness you won’t be bothered by the thought of what people have said or what they will say.’
Bartimaeus shows us what attitude we need to gain the ‘plane of sanctity’; total surrender of ourselves to He who our heart yearns for and the deepest part of our soul recognizes – Christ. Once we give in to what our soul knows we become steadfast, forceful and shameless in our discipleship to Jesus Christ. Our lives become clearer because our desires and needs, our expectations and goals become simpler, indeed singular – Christ. Bartimaeus asked for sight and by his actions he tells us what sight he truly wanted – He followed Christ.
Maybe the greatest lesson from today’s gospel is how do we hope to recognize this in our lives? In our societal sophistication we have become too jaded in our thoughts and points of view. In spite of trying we are overwhelmed with nuances and intricacies of logic (or illogic – depending) to grasp, maybe, the lessons that Christ teaches us. How do we overcome this?
Christ teaches His followers and us how in the gospel today. Look to the children and the simplehearted to help cut through what modernity has done to us. Look to the saints who have succeeded – look to Mary. Christ tells His followers to ‘Call him’, bring this loud blind beggar to Me. Not so much to heal him as to teach His followers and us the importance of seeing in all we meet the face of Christ; to hear in all those we help the words of salvation; to learn from those on the margins the riches of faith.
May each of us have the blessing of a Bartimaeus in our lives.