Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Saints’ Day-2015

Sister Mary Rose McGeady, in her book, Does God Still Love Me?, tells a wonderful story about a colony of mice who made their home at the bottom of a large upright piano. These mice lived in a world of constant music. Music filled all the dark spaces of their existence with lovely melodies and harmonies.
At first, the mice were impressed by the music. They drew comfort and wonder from the thought that Someone made the music--Someone though invisible to them, yet close to them. They loved to tell stories about the Great Unseen Piano Player whom they could not see.
Then one day an adventuresome mouse climbed up part of the way in the piano and returned with an elaborate explanation about how the music was made. Wires were the secret--tightly stretched wires of various lengths that vibrated and trembled from time to time. A second mouse ventured forth and came back telling of hammers--many hammers dancing and leaping on the wires.
The mice decided they must revise their old opinions. The theory they developed was complicated, but complete with evidence. In the end, the mice concluded that they lived in a purely mechanical and mathematical world--a world simply of wires and hammers. The story of the Unseen Piano Player was relegated to mere myth . . . But the Unseen Player continued to play nonetheless.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Seeing God and possessing the kingdom of God are main goals of human existence.

The Sermon on the Mount is a summary of all Christian teaching, but the Beatitudes are a summary of the Sermon on the Mount.  The Ten Commandments are basic rules of morality, but the Beatitudes are a measure of how far beyond this the Gospel calls us.   The morality of the Ten Commandments is a morality that can be measured: it is possible to say exactly where you are with them, ticking the ones you broke and the degree of the breach.  Christians may come to believe that they have no sin just because they haven't been in breach of the Commandments.  But the morality of the Beatitudes is harder to quantify: how poor in spirit are you?  How meek, gentle, merciful…?  You can never say “I’ve reached it!”  You can never be self-righteous.  And you can never even begin to think that you are better than another – because you can't compare.
In celebrating ‘all saints’ today we both acknowledge the many unnamed saints in heaven and also recognize that in baptism we ourselves have been set apart, established as sanctuaries of God’s presence. God invites each of us to grow in this holiness.

What is it then that makes a saint? The Beatitudes may appear to be a sort of practical guide to this holiness. Holiness is a mature friendship with Jesus Christ, a friendship so deep and strong that it allows us to experience the joy of eternal life even while still fighting the painful battles of our earthly exile. It is the truly amazing ability to experience deep joy even in the middle of terrible sorrow. This is what Jesus means when he says that those who are poor, in mourning, and persecuted are blessed. Even in modern times this joy amid suffering has constantly characterized mature Christians.

The sacrifices and struggles we go through here on earth to be faithful to Christ and the Church are worth it. All Saints' Day reminds us of something that can get lost in the other saints' days. The most famous saints often led such extraordinary lives that it's hard for us to emulate them. It's easy to honor them, recognizing all that they did for Christ, and all that Christ did for them.

But honoring the saints is not enough. We also need to emulate them. And this is where All Saints' Day comes in. Today we honor all of saintly men and women who have not been canonized by the Church, who are not famous saints, but who have nevertheless followed Christ heroically and taken their place in heaven. These are the saints that lived ordinary lives on the outside, and extraordinary lives on the inside. And God didn't overlook them. And there is no shortage of them. They make up a "great multitude, which no one could count," as St John puts it in the First Reading.
Today's Solemnity assures us that if we live each day as Christ would have us, striving to do God's will with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves, then our lives, which look so ordinary on the outside, will be truly extraordinary on the inside. And we will be blessed in the eyes of God even though in the sight of the world our life may be a failure. As we commemorate and celebrate the lives of all the saints, let’s recognize our call to sainthood and strive to be holy by living the beatitudes accepting the challenges of our daily lives.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

O.T. XXX [B] Jer 31:7-9; Heb 5: 1-6; Mk10:46-52

According to a Jewish legend there was once a blind man who was married but had no children.  Although his life was hard, he never complained. One day as the blind man was sitting by a river, the prophet Elijah came to him from heaven and said, “Even though your life has been hard, you never complained, and so God will grant you one wish.” The poor man frowned. “Only one   wish!" he said. “I’m blind, I’m poor, and I’m childless. How will one wish satisfy all my problems? But give me twenty-four hours and I’ll think up a wish.” He went home and told his wife what had happened. She smiled at him and said, “Eat well and sleep soundly, for I know what you should wish.” He came back the next morning and said to Elijah as he appeared again, “I wish to be able to see my children eat from gold plates.” The wish was granted and the man and his wife lived happily for the rest of their days. Today’s Gospel presents another blind man whose wish was to regain his sight. Jesus restored sight to his eyes and to his spirit, and Bartimaeus immediately began to follow Jesus as a sighted, witnessing disciple, not only physically healed, but spiritually as well.

The Gospel explains how Jesus showed the mercy and compassion of his Heavenly Father by healing Bartimaeus, a blind man. Just as the blind and the lame were God’s concern in the first reading, Jesus was concerned with the blind beggar, Bartimaeus of Jericho. The story of Bartimaeus is the last healing miracle recorded in the Gospel of Mark. The story is presented dramatically. While the majority of those who received healing in the New Testament are not mentioned by name, in this case, the beggar’s name is given as Bartimaeus, which means son of Timaeus.  When the people told Bartimaeus the news of Jesus’ passage through the city, he began to shout his remarkable prayer of Faith: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." Jesus was surrounded by a large crowd. Amid the noise and dust, people were jostling for attention, and beggars cried out for alms. In spite of this tumult, Jesus heard one voice crying out through the noise of the crowd. Who would have expected a Messianic greeting from a blind beggar? In spite of the crowd's objections, Jesus stopped and, recognizing Bartimaeus’ Faith, called the blind man over.

By addressing Jesus as Son of David, the beggar publicly identified Jesus as the Messiah. At Jesus’ summons, Bartimaeus threw aside his long cloak, his only possession, which protected him from heat and cold.  In throwing away his cloak, he gave up everything he had depended on, putting his complete trust in God. Jesus then asked, “What do you want me to do for you?" Bartimaeus replied promptly: “Master, I want to see.”Jesus rewarded his faith by restoring both his physical and his spiritual sight. Having received physical and spiritual sight, Bartimaeus followed Jesus joyfully along the road.  The gift of sight led Bartimaeus to faith, and faith came to full expression in committed discipleship. He wanted to stay close to his Savior, to thank, praise, and serve Him. I imagine there were more blind beggars on the road other than just Bartimaeus. But they didn’t know what they wanted. Most of them wanted alms and not healing.

Thousands of years ago a young Chinese emperor called upon his family's most trusted advisor. "Oh, learned counselor," said the emperor, "you have advised my father and grandfather. What is the single most important advice you can give me to rule my country?" And Confucius replied, "The first thing you must do is to define the problem."

Many unhappy people cannot put their finger on what is really causing their distress. Many unfulfilled people cannot even tell you what it would take to satisfy them. Many of us have no clear idea or conception what our real needs, our real desires, and our real priorities are. And because we have never defined the problem or clarified our goals, we spend a lifetime anxiously wandering with very little to ask from the Lord.

Like Bartimaeus, we must seek Jesus with trust in his goodness and mercy. Sometimes our fears, anger and habitual sins prevent us from approaching God in prayer. At times, we even become angry with God when He seems slow in answering our prayers.  In these desperate moments, let us approach Jesus in prayer with trusting Faith as Bartimaeus did and listen carefully to the voice of Jesus asking us: "What do you want me to do for you?” Let us tell Him all our heart’s intentions and needs.