October 31, 2015
Poor and Clean of Heart
We have been reading from the Gospel According to Mark. For this feast of All Saints, we switch to the Matthew. However, the passages from Mark of the last two Sundays might give us some good examples to reflect on two of the “beatitudes” – “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are the clean of heart.”
In the Gospel for the 29th Sunday, James and John asked Jesus to let them sit one at his right and one at his left. Worse than their demand is the way they speak to Jesus, “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10: 35). That doesn't seem to be the attitude of the poor in spirit. They think highly of themselves. They appear presumptuous or even arrogant.
Their attitude leads James and John to make such an obnoxious demand. The demand also suggests their desire for power and control.
The blind man Bartimaeus, on the contrary, acknowledges his nothingness. More importantly, he recognizes and professes his faith in the Son of David. He pleads with Jesus to “have pity on” him (Mark 10: 47, Gospel for 30th Sunday). He is poor both in possessions and in spirit.
The recognition of his poverty leads Bartimaeus to depend on Jesus, not on his possessions, position, connections, or talents. And once he has received the sight that he asks for, he follows Jesus as Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem.
October 24, 2015
Bartimaeus Follows Jesus on the Way
Last week, we listened to James and John asking Jesus for a favor. Today, we heard Bartimaeus' request.
Let's compare Bartimaeus with James and John.
James and John were among the first people Jesus called at the very beginning of his public ministry (Mark, Chapter 1). They are two of the Twelve, those closest to Jesus. Moreover, James and John, often with Peter, have the privilege of being with Jesus on very special occasions. For example, Jesus let them witness the Transfiguration (Mark, Chapter 8) and the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mark, Chapter 5).
Bartimaeus, on the contrary, is a blind beggar. He is not even in the crowd following Jesus. He is nobody. And he has nothing. His sole possession seems to be the cloak, which he even “throws aside” when Jesus calls him.
These opposite background details provides a stark contrast between Bartimaeus and James and John.
James and John addresses Jesus simply as, “Teacher.” Bartimaeus acknowledges Jesus as the “Son of David” and “Master” (or “Lord” in some other translations.)
James and John approach Jesus and demand, ““Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
Bartimaeus is much humbler. He simply pleads with Jesus, “Have pity on me.”
James and John ask for places of honor and power, sitting at Jesus' right and left even though they have been told three times what awaits Jesus in Jerusalem. They are with Jesus, but they are not really following him.
James and John have eyes but they do not see.
Bartimaeus had no sight but he could see.
And once given sight, Bartimaeus is told “go your way.” However, he follows Jesus “on the way,” which is the way to Jerusalem , the way of humility and sacrifice, the way of loving service.
 In Mark, Jesus' enters Jerusalem immediately after this story of the healing of Bartimaeus. http://www.agnusday.org/comics/124/mark-1046-52-2006.
October 17, 2015
Today's Gospel passage reports the request James and John make. It comes after the third time Jesus announces what would happen to him in Jerusalem (10: 32-23). And this time, Jesus gives more concrete details of his suffering and death than ever before. 
With each prediction, Jesus moves closer to Jerusalem. There is also a progression in Jesus' selection of his audiences for the predictions of his passion. 
The first prediction of the passion was given to the disciples. Peter responded by trying to dissuade Jesus. In response, Jesus spoke to “the crowd with his disciples” about the call to deny oneself, take up one's cross and follow him (Chapter 8).
The second prediction was again given to the disciples. They then argued who was the greatest. Jesus called the Twelve and taught them about true greatness in humble and loving service of others (Chapter 9).
Today's passage from Chapter 10 follows immediately the third prediction. Here, the prediction was given only to the Twelve. And after their erroneous response, Jesus again spoke only to the Twelve.
There seems to be a progression here. Those Jesus himself has chosen and called seem in need of his patience and instruction more than anybody else.
The Lord knows them and their needs well. They are his friends. And he is patient with them.
He would try over and over again to teach them the mystery of his love, which reveals fully on the cross.
His mercy and patience give us courage when we don't get it.
 Francis J. Moloney. The Gospel of Mark, A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002; p. 204.
October 10, 2015
The passage again begins with the context, “Jesus was setting on a journey.”
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. This gives concrete context to his invitation, “Follow me.”
The man who has “many possessions” could not follow Jesus. Apparently, he either has too much to lose or his many possessions hold him back. Ironically, he is not even observing the very first commandment. Nor does he live the Shema, which he, as a devout Jew, would say even twice everyday, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!”
The disciples think they “have given up everything and followed” Jesus. They have begun. But if they truly follow Jesus, their journeys must continue all the way to the cross.
I wonder where I am on this journey.
October 3, 2015
“From the Beginning of Creation”
The setting of a Scripture passage can be a good tool for its understanding. The events in this passage of Mark 10: 2-16, as well as the conversations and Jesus' teachings we will hear next Sunday, take place as Jesus is journeying toward Jerusalem.
In the passage, Jesus brings up God's plan “from the beginning of creation.” The plan of God's love and goodness gives the guidelines and standards for human relationships and the order of all creation.
Our lives may not always reflect that plan, as a result of sins. So is the reality of our world.
Jesus is now on the way to Jerusalem. There, by his passion, crucifixion and resurrection, he will restore the original plan of God. Moreover, all creation is redeemed by his blood. We are no longer just God's creation. We are now God's children, brothers and sisters of Christ (2nd Reading, Hebrew 2:11)
Though we are not there yet, we know and believe that the fullness of God's Kingdom is the true fulfillment of God's plan of love. There, we will be with God forever.
Thus, Pope Francis reminded us, “Our life is not a pointless wandering. We have a sure goal: the house of the Father.” 
 Twitter, Pontifex, October 1, 2015.