Blind Man’s Lesson

In his first letter to the Thessalonians St. Paul tells them and us: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification:[1] 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:[2] 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.[3]  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[4]. In today’s gospel we see a great lesson in what Saint Josemaría was talking about.

Holy steadfastness
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’[5]. 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.

Holy Forcefulness
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.

Holy Shamelessness
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.[6]

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[7], 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.

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[1] 1 Thes 4:3
[2] ibid
[3] St Francis of Assisi
[4] St Josemaría Escrivá The Way #387
[5] MK 10:47
[6] St Josemaría Escrivá The Way #391
[7] MK 10:49

Prayer, The Good Fight

In our reflections on the Liturgy of the Hours we have looked into various aspects.  This evening I want to finish up by looking at its importance in the evangelizing work of Holy Mother Church.

At the end of Mass the faithful are dismissed; not to leave and turn their attention to other aspects of their life, but to take forth the graces that participating in the Mass gives and use them in the world – helping to sanctify it.  The dismissals used in the English version of the Novus Ordo are beautiful but are not as clear and powerful as the Latin dismissal ‘Ite Missa Est’ – ‘Go, you are sent’.

But we are human, and as such our attention and understanding wane the farther we are from Mass.  The church is very aware of this; in fact, in years past the great liturgical seasons were sometimes referred to as tides, which ebb and flow (Christmastide, Eastertide and so forth).  Yes, mankind tends to allow important events, and their effects to fade. It is the same with Mass; for some it takes a while, others it is almost immediate – just look at the parking lot after Mass.

Participation in the Liturgy of the Hours is a medicine against this waning, this fading, of the fruitfulness of the Mass. Participation in the Liturgy of Hours extends ‘to the different hours of the day the praise and thanksgiving, the commemoration of the mysteries of salvation, the petitions and the foretaste of heavenly glory, that are present in the Eucharistic mystery[1] The Liturgy of the Hours allows us to retain the graces from Mass by keeping them in the forefront of our thoughts and burning brightly in our hearts. It also helps us prepare for the next celebration of the Mass. St. Rose of Lima, talking about prayer said: ‘Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.[2] The Liturgy of the Hours fulfill her words by extending the sacrifice of the Mass through prayer.

In addition, our participation in the Liturgy of the Hours is also a communal participation in Christ’s Priesthood – His work in the redemption of mankind. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) wrote: ‘Every true prayer is a prayer of the Church; by means of that prayer the Church prays, since it is the Holy Spirit living in the Church, Who in every single soul ‘prays in us with unspeakable groanings.’ As with all prayer, but even more so, the Liturgy of the Hours is an important tool in our ability to wage the good fight against the enemy.  Whether we pray individually, or together, the Divine Office is a prayer of the Church (militant and triumphant). In it we offer the prayers of the church, prayers for the church, prayers for specific people and on and on. By this constant effort of prayer we align ourselves with the Heavenly Hosts who are fighting the same battle but on a different plane; and together we all add our efforts to those of Christ Himself.

I want to end my reflection with another one, a beautiful reflection from Blessed Card. Ildefonso Schuster, who was Archbishop of Milan from 1929 to 1954. This reflection was written in the last year of his life – he was too week to follow the Divine Office very attentively but nevertheless understood and needed to participate.

I close my eyes, and while my lips murmur the words of the Breviary which I know by heart, I leave behind their literal meaning, and feel that I am in that endless land where the Church, militant and pilgrim, passes, walking towards the promised fatherland. I breathe with the Church in the same light by day, the same darkness by night; I see on every side of me the forces of evil that beset and assail Her; I find myself in the midst of Her battles and victories, Her prayers of anguish and Her songs of triumph, in the midst of the oppression of prisoners, the groans of the dying, the rejoicing of the armies and captains victorious. I find myself in their midst, but not as a passive spectator; nay rather, as one whose vigilance and skill, whose strength and courage can bear a decisive weight on the outcome of the struggle between good and evil, and upon the eternal destinies of individual men and of the multitude.[3]

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[1] General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (GILH) #12
[2] St. Rose of Lima
[3] Meditation by Bl. Card. Schuster (found on http://www.newliturgicalmovement.com 9/19/15)