What I wouldn’t have given to hear the line addressed to Bartimaeus in today’s gospel being addressed to me when I was discerning my call to the priesthood. “Take courage; Get up, Jesus is calling you.” Oh, for such clarity in my discernment. But it was not seemingly there. Or if it was, I was unable to hear it. Still, of all the words recorded in the gospels that ‘the crowd’ speaks, in my opinion this is the most important. In Mark’s narrative of the story of Jesus, ‘the crowd’ usually functions in two ways – it either helps people to Jesus or it hinders their approach to Jesus. In today’s gospel, it actually does both. Scholars have noted in this regard that the role of the crowd parallels the role of the church. The church is meant to help people get to Jesus. Sometimes it does that well. Other times, not so much. Yet they tell us, it is important to hear the words of the ‘crowd’ as words that are addressed to us as believers.
So, what does it mean to hear the crowd say to us, today: “Take courage; Get up, Jesus is calling you.”
Take Courage. Sometimes courage looks like trusting in the fact that God made you good and made you for a purpose. Sometimes courage means to stand up in a relationship and speak the truth in love, even when it is difficult. But when I thought about the church and the call to take courage, I thought of politics this week.
Nothing is worse than being stuck in fear. Political attack ads know that, and they know if they can get you to vote from a place of fear and not a place of courage, they have a better chance of swaying your vote to their candidate/issue. Sad, isn’t it. But judging by the sheer number of attack ads, it works. What would it mean, instead, to vote from a place of courage this year? To cast our votes, not from that place of fear and who or what we are against, but from our vision of what this country can be and should be when formed by the gospel? Our Bishops have laid out such a perspective in their document “Faithful Citizenship”. You have nine days. Do some praying to vote from a place of courage.
Get up. I think of those words as ‘morning words’. As in ‘time to get up.’ Yet, it is easy to sleep walk through life. To not make a stand. To follow willy-nilly the currents of life and society. Get up invites us to do life differently. Though it is early, what would it be like if we did our approach to the Holiday season differently? The St. Ann social justice committee is conducting a Fair Trade Market on Nov. 11th. Fair Trade Good are not made by sweatshops, but by folks who earn a living wage from their labors. So items from Fair Trade consortiums in impoverished countries will be available. Or for $50 you can purchase a filter kit which will provide one family with pure drinking water for a year. Get up – there is the work of justice to be done.
Jesus is calling you. “Gulp!” Really? Me, Lord? Can’t someone else volunteer Lord? And then sometimes it is the “I do so much already. It’s someone else’ turn.” Maybe. But what if the Lord is calling you? How can you turn him down?
Bartimaeus, the man to whom these words were first addressed by the crowd, is in my opinion the most courageous man in the gospels aside from Jesus, because at that threefold command, he tosses aside his cloak, (pardon the pun, but he’ll never see it again. He doesn’t even know what it looks like) comes to Jesus and asks for the grace to see. We are told that he follows Jesus ‘en te hodos’ – On the Way – which is Marcan shorthand for being a disciple. May we follow his example and do the same.
Take courage; get up. Jesus is calling YOU…