Urgent Conversion

Sometimes when Jodi and I rise early in the morning to reflect on the daily Scripture readings and pray together, I fail to check the calendar for special feasts. Instead I go straight for the daily missal and read the regular readings for the day, only to open our emailed gospel reflection to learn that it’s the Feast of Such-and-such, with a special gospel reading.

That is what happened on Thursday morning, with the happy result that it caused me to focus on the call to urgency and action in our conversion.

The ordinary reading for the Eighth Thursday in Ordinary Time this year would be Mark 10:46-52:

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”  And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

This is the passage I read with my bride. She then opened Bishop Robert Barron’s gospel reflection for the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is celebrated on May 31. The passage is Luke 1:39-56; his focus was on verses 39-45:

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Bishop Barron drew our focus to Mary’s haste in this passage: “Why did she go with such speed and purpose? Because she had found her mission, her role in the theo-drama. … The theo-drama is the great story being told by God, the great play being directed by God. What makes life thrilling is to discover your role in it.”

Mary was called. She said yes. She acted, immediately and urgently.

Look at the other verbs in this passage, as well: St. John the Baptist leaped for joy, St. Elizabeth cried out in a loud voice. Their actions convey all the excitement we should expect (and convey) in an encounter with God.

Now take a look at the first passage from Mark, which was the gospel I actually read. In particular, look at the actions of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus.

  • Like Elizabeth, he cries out loudly—in this case, asking for help.
  • When Jesus responds, Bartimaeus throws off his cloak, springs to his feet, and comes to Him. (Not bad for a blind man!)
  • When Jesus heals the blind man, he is free to go—but instead he follows the Lord on the way.

Like the saints Mary, John the Baptist, and Elizabeth, the beggar Bartimaeus responds to the presence of Jesus with energy, enthusiasm, urgency.

Do we?

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