The Most Reverend Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 25, 2009
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Master, I want to see.” Mark 10:51
“Master, I want to see” (Mark 10:51). They are the words called out to Jesus by Bartimaeus, the blind beggar of the Gospel. “Master, I want to see.” In spite of the fact that many try to silence him, Bartimaeus only cries out more loudly, “Son of David, have pity on me” (Mark 10:48). Jesus calls him over and asks what he wants. “Master, I want to see.”
Those words are the words of desire, deep, thirsting desire. We must not miss the significance of Jesus giving sight to the blind. The blind move from darkness to light. Jesus reminded us that as long as He was present, there was light. He said, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). He said this when he cured another blind man in the Gospel of St. John . The power to see that Jesus gives the blind is the power to see Him, the light of the world. When Bartimaeus cries out, “Master, I want to see,” he is exclaiming his desire to see Jesus. “I came into the world as light,” Jesus says, “so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness” (John 12:46). Thus, Jesus cures Bartimaeus to see His light.
The words of Bartimaeus strike me. They are the words of a humble man, a poor blind beggar, who expresses a desire that each of us should have. Yet, we do not. In the words of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, there are more people converted from mortal sin to grace, then there are people converted from good to better. The fact is that we are not only tempted to prefer darkness to light, we do in fact choose darkness over light. In Jesus’ words, “And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil” (John 3:19).
What does moving from darkness to light really mean? I recall the words of the 1980 Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Czeslaw Milosz, who once said, “… a devout and God-fearing man is superior as a human specimen to a restless mocker who is glad to style himself as ‘intellectual,’ proud of his cleverness in using ideas which he claims as his own though he acquired them in a pawnshop in exchange for simplicity of heart…. The sacred exists and is stronger than all our rebellions.” The sentiment expressed is very close to “Master, I want to see.” What the Nobel Laureate and the blind beggar have in common is the humility to see. We cannot really see without humility. Pride is the real blindness.
I cannot, however, speak of the blindness of pride and the World without speaking of my own. Otherwise, I become no better than a Pharisee who thanked God for not making him like the rest of men. No, to stand before God we must admit our faults, our weaknesses, and our deficiencies. This takes humility. In speaking of the high priest, Hebrews, our second reading reminds us of the necessity of humility. The high priest “is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people” (Hebrews 5:2-3). Every day I must confess my own darkness and so embrace my need to see Jesus the light. To do this I must humble myself before God and admit that I know very little and that while I move frequently from sin to grace, I must strive to move from good to better. For this reason, I make the prayer of Bartimaeus my own, “Master, I want to see.”
Soon we will observe the feast of All Souls Day. As Catholics, we pray for the deceased. We believe that we can help them with our prayers. This presumes a belief in the doctrine of Purgatory. For this reason All Souls Day is a feast of humility. Purgatory recognizes that to cry out, “Master, I want to see,” never really stops until we have the final vision of God. Purgatory reminds us of the need to be one with our deceased, who enjoy our intercession for them. As the Sacred Scriptures say of Judas Maccabeus, who indeed prayed for the dead, “If he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought” (II Maccabees 12:44-45). Prayer for the dead is an act of humility. Prayer for the dead is a profession of faith in the Resurrection.
Purgatory tells me that the need to cry out, “Master, I want to see,” should really never stop until I am blinded by light, with God face to face. Purgatory tells me that I must never lack the humility to kneel before my God and say, “Forgive me for my intellectual pride and the times I have hurt you and others.” Purgatory reminds me of a Gospel lesson, that it is not the Pharisee who thanks God that he is perfect who is saved but rather the poor tax collector who beats his breast on his knees and reveals his sinfulness. Lord, make the prayer of Bartimaeus mine. “Master, I want to see.”