30th Sunday Ordinary Time
25th OCTOBER 2015.
Mark 10: 46-52.
Dcn Tony van Vuuren
Every now and then we come across people knocked for six by some terrible disaster or mishap in their lives. In their extreme pain they are often incapable of saying even one word about what they are feeling. So when we ask: ’How are you feeling?’ or ‘Is there anything I can do?’, there’s no answer. The victims of sudden disaster are simply incapable of answering anything at all. In their numb state they are feeling just too much pain and shock even to hear what is being said to them, let alone focus on what is being said.
The first step to easing our pain is for us to find a language, however slowly, to express it. In the pages of the bible we find a language to express the pain that comes from loss, and the pain that comes from fear. In fact there are many prayers of lament, many lamentations of one kind or another in the bible. What they have in common is that they are cries from the heart, shouts of suffering, groans of anguish, and even screams for help. A lamentation typically includes an invocation to God; a plea for divine intervention.
Cries, shouts and groans to God when we are in acute pain not only help us to express ourselves. They are also expressions of hope that things can change, that they can get better.
Lamentation, then, is not pessimistic, it is trustful. It refuses to remain powerless and passive in response to suffering, frustration, disappointment, or disaster.
When that poor blind beggar Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is nearby, he shouts out his lament: ‘Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me.’ Some of those surrounding Jesus resent this beggar expressing his pain and screaming out for help. They tell him to ‘shut up’. But Bartimaeus knows that if things are ever going to change for the better, he must grab the opportunity and communicate to Jesus the loss of his sight and his lack of an income to buy food, clothing, or any of the necessities of life. He has been blind nearly all his life, and he’s had enough of living in his world of total darkness, and he’s just not going to take it anymore; with the arrival of Jesus on the scene he’s convinced that his one and only chance of a brand new start is now at hand.
Bartemaeus’ cries for help stop Jesus in his tracks. He tells the bystanders to reach out to Bartimaeus by calling him over. At this command the disciples now change their tune. ‘Courage,’ they say, ‘Get up; he is calling you.’ Jesus asks him that question of all questions: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ When the blind man finds words to express his loss, Jesus heals him and commends him for expressing the faith that is saving him. Saved by faith in the power and compassion of Jesus, he uses his new sight to follow Jesus along the way, as his newest disciple.
So this marvellous healing of the blind man takes place as the result of a prayer of lamentation.
It’s a story that reminds us that in the frustration and anger over bad things that happen to us or others, or in situations of acute pain, it’s quite all right to give vent to our feelings, and even, like Bartimaeus, to yell or even scream at God for help. After all, God is big enough, great enough and good enough, to absorb all our cries of pain and all our cries for help.
But if, on the other hand, we’ve been brought up to think that the religious response to pain and suffering should be silence and passivity, then we won’t ever pray those prayers of complaint and lament to God that we need to pray. We’ll just take it all on the chin, and fall into a crumpled heap of depression and anxiety. To do that, however, means that we will be depriving ourselves of a language to state our suffering.
Instead of honestly telling God our loving Father exactly what we are thinking and feeling, our prayer will be a kind of polite and reverent game of ‘make-believe’.
We will also deprive ourselves of the possibility of help and healing from God in one form or another.
Just as Bartimaeus touched the heart of Jesus and found the comfort and healing he needed in his life-long predicament, we will also find that our prayers of lament will go straight to the heart of God.
We all have different needs; physical, financial, relational and spiritual. No matter what our need, however, Jesus can help us if we cry out to him. Be humble but confident. The world often rebukes simple faith in God, but God never does.
For a host of reasons we sometimes stop praying or we pray less frequently. Sometimes if we do pray, we neglect to ask for anything for ourselves. What stops us from praying? Fear, anger, guilt, broken hearts, temptation, apathy. We do not deserve to be happy. We are afraid of holiness. We are angry at God for what appears to be unanswered prayers. We are tempted away from prayer by worldly or sinful things. We stop caring about our relationship with Jesus.
It is time to put a stop to all that. It is time to call out to Jesus here and now.
Loud and clear. To once again contemplate what we are missing in life. To hear the voice of Jesus ask us — “What do you want me to do for you?” And we must be able to respond.
Bartimaeus said that he wanted to see.
What is it that we want to see in our lives?
Ask for it. Have faith!