By Fr Joachim Robert
Theme: Christianity is a call to live by God’s Revelation
As we celebrate Mission Sunday today, each and every one of us are reminded of our baptismal call to mission because by the virtue of our baptism, all of us are missionaries to proclaim the Good News of Christ. And the theme that the Pope has taken on this World Mission Sunday is taken from Acts 4:20:
“We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
If we, dear friends, have tasted the beauty of God in our lives, then we are compelled or moved to share the Good News of Christ towards one another; and in doing so we become missionaries of God’s compassion towards one another. Because we have experienced the love and the mercy of God in our lives and in doing so we are compelled to share the compassion towards one another. And today all the readings capture these moments.
Today, I would like to reflect a little bit deeper on it, especially in the Gospel.
In the Gospel today, we are given the image of Bartimaeus, a blind man, a beggar seated by the outskirts or the peripheries of the city of Jericho. And here, dear friends, I would like to invite you to sit together with him at that street corner. Bartimaeus was blind so he was not able to see and his access to the world was by what he heard from the passersby around him. And that was his vision of life. When you are blind, you are unable to see many things. But as he sat by the roadside, he heard people walking in, walking out and he drew a glimpse of what Jesus did, who Jesus was and gradually something moved in his heart, and something grew and his attention towards Jesus grew. Whenever he heard Jesus passing by, he cried out to Jesus and said, “Have pity on me.”
As we sit together with Bartimaeus, dear friends, we sometimes feel that we are forgotten. We are the forgotten part of the city of Jericho, forgotten part of people’s life. Because very often we seem to be unnoticed because we are not important. And usually, people don’t see people like us. So why do we scream and ask for Jesus for healing?
And I am sure, dear friends, that each one of us as we sit together with Bartimaeus at the street corner, we have experienced the same kind of emotions, the same kind of rejection, the same kind of isolation, even whenever we are seated at the meal table. Whenever people are eating, we choose to exclude ourselves from just being on our phones or possibly not wanting to engage in relationship, not wanting to engage in the work, in the mission that has been given to us. And sometimes, dear friends, we allow those moments to pass by even without reflecting. And we feel that people have grown used to what we are: helpless, hopeless.
But in these situations, dear friends, Jesus pass us by and we cry out to him. And whenever we cry out to him, people around us may say, “Be quiet. Don’t waste the time of the Master because he has more important things to do.” And like Bartimaeus, dear friends, we sometimes get used to those kinds of treatment and we are left in isolation, we are left alone. But whenever we hear the stories of Jesus, whenever we see the stories of hope, something in us stirs, awakens and we cry out to Jesus again: “Jesus, have pity on me.” I am sure all of us can relate, can resonate with the experiences of Bartimaeus.
But Bartimaeus, whenever he cried out to Jesus, he had faith in God. He wanted Jesus to touch him, remove his blindness and he wanted to see again. And same like Bartimaeus, dear friends, all of us want healing, want renewal in our lives, want hope in our lives, want happiness in our lives. And Jesus can offer that to us, whether is it in our personal life, whether is it in our community, whether is it everywhere we go. There are people like Bartimaeus, the people who are like the people who followed Jesus and his disciples in the crowd as well.
Whenever Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus, people who told ‘Quiet’ now are being supportive of him and pushes him forward and says, “Courage, he is calling you.” So Bartimaeus throws off his cloak, jumped up and went towards Jesus. And that is the kind of faith, my dear friends, that each one of us are called to have, to surrender our lives totally to the providence of God, to surrender our lives totally in the presence of Jesus. Because whenever we are in the situation like Bartimaeus, all that we cling on to is the hope that God will never abandon us.
I am sure as missionaries around the world as they continue to serve in the ministries which they are in and even for each and every one of us, we are people who have become accustomed to people like Bartimaeus. But Jesus says, the response of Jesus towards Bartimaeus is simple but profound, Jesus says, “Call him here”, Jesus asks what does he want and then Jesus restores his sight.
In the same way, dear friends, there are many people who are in the peripheries of our society, there are people who are isolated, there are people who are lonely, people who have no one to turn to. And as people who have been privileged to experience the love and the mercy of God in our lives like Bartimaeus, we too are called to proclaim that Good News towards one another; just like Bartimaeus’ faith was able to restore the faith of so many people who were following Jesus but perhaps did not understand the depth of that relationship. You and I, dear friends, are called to enter into that experience of God, that encounter of God each and every day of our lives.
And as we look at the Synod towards 2023, Pope Francis calls this Synod so that we can listen to one another, so that we can discern together in this journey towards a Church that is called to heal itself and to restore itself toward what God wants of us. Because whenever we listen, dear friends, whenever we experience that encounter, same like Bartimaeus, we can imagine what form of conversion, what form of transformation that encounter can lead us into. And in doing so, we can build our community of faith so that we can build God’s kingdom here on earth. Because the Holy Spirit, dear friends, can move us, can love us and can heal us. All that we need to do is to cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit in our lives so that we can become missionaries of compassion towards one another.
As Pope Francis reminds us on this World Mission Sunday not to neglect people all around us, because just as we social distance among ourselves, we can also distance ourselves from the peripheries of people’s lives. We can distance ourselves from the pain of people because they sometimes cause us to rethink and make us unsettled. But Jesus invites us today, invites us to include them as part of our agenda, to include them as part of our world because just like Bartimaeus, who insignificant that he was, he was able to lead others around him to faith. And that is our call dear friends, a call to become missionaries of compassion. From a period or from encounters of desperation, we become liberated in God. And whenever we experience those encounters, dear friends, as the theme says today:
“We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard”.
I conclude with today’s responsorial psalm:
“What marvels the Lord worked for us, indeed we were glad.”
Dear friends, we are called to be missionaries of compassion and let us be that missionaries of compassion towards one another to build a world united together.
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