Monday, October 19, 2015

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) : Homily / Sermon

Son of David, have pity on me. (Mark 10:50)

If you had to do without a particular sense, which one would it be?

It is a silly and pointless question, in a way, but it may have some purpose.

If the question means which sense do you value the most, then I suppose it has some interest. If the question leads us to realise how valuable our senses are, then I suppose it is a really worthwhile question, because I know that while I would hate to lose the enjoyment of music and speech which deafness would bring, I would just as much feel bereft if I could not read or watch television or just get about with ease. If a question like this makes us admire those who cope with the limitations of a disability (rather than just pity them) then all the better.

And of course people believe that if you lose one sense, the others become stronger, or more acute. There’s some doubt whether that very common belief is actually true. People who lose the use of one sense have to use the other senses more and so take more notice of them, but - from what I have read, at least, it seems that there is very little evidence that the common belief, that the other senses become more acute, is actually true.

But whether you believe this or not, it would very foolish to underestimate or patronise those who do have a disability of one kind of another. People used to assume that the deaf were also unintelligent. And the word “dumb” meant both “unable to speak” and “stupid”, as if one were the same as the other. And when someone is confined to a wheelchair, people often talk directly to the person pushing the chair, rather than the one sitting in it - as if being unable to walk also affected your ability to understand and answer simple questions.

You can see this kind of attitude in today’s Gospel. The crowd underestimated poor old blind Bartimaeus. A blind beggar, because that was the only way he could to live. To be pitied, for sure, but not to be respected. To be given the odd coin, or a scrap to eat, perhaps, but not to be listened to, not to be accorded an opinion. Don’t shout out blind man. Don’t make a scene, poor beggar. But blind Bartimaeus is bold, because although he cannot see Jesus with his eyes, with his heart he makes an act of faith.

Your faith has saved you, Jesus says.

While those around may be inquisitive to see what this man, Jesus, looks like, the blind man, unable to see his face, nevertheless loudly worships him - much to the embarrassment of those who think they can see - but who in fact, though they barely realise it, are truly blind.