It was dark when I saw a snake lying on a dimly lit porch behind our parish rectory. I quickly grabbed a stick nearby to kill it. Surprisingly, it never moved despite the many blows that I gave it. I curiously lifted it with the stick and brought it under a light bulb close by. I then discovered why it never flinched under many blows. It was a rubber snake! I spent five minutes of my life trying to kill a rubber snake in the dark!
It was a humorous reminder of how we can do stupid things and waste our time and energy when we choose to live in darkness and make choices in the dark. In our fallen nature, we cannot grasp with due clarity the Natural Law written in our hearts because our intellects are blinded by ignorance. It is important for us to be in the light and to be guided by this light if we are going to make choices that leave us grateful, fulfilled, and hopeful.
This is why God does not only liberate His unfaithful people; He also guides them step by step all the way home, “They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to the brooks of water, on a level road, so that none will stumble.” (Jer 31:9) God does everything to prevent His people from doing things that will hurt them and lead them astray on their journey home.
In Jesus Christ, God is present with us, liberating us and guiding us home by His own light, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”(Jn 8:12) Jesus alone gives us the light that we need to make good, wholesome, and life-giving choices. Apart From Him, we live and act in darkness, doing stupid and regrettable things.
Bartimaeus lived in complete darkness and he longed for sight more than for anything, “Master, I want to see.” This is why he did not stop calling out to Jesus, “Son of David, have pity on me.” When he received his sight, he did not go on his way as Jesus asked him to, but he used his sight to follow Jesus on His mission, “Immediately he received his sight and followed Him on the way.”(See Mk 10:46-52) Jesus’s light did not only liberate him from darkness but Jesus now guides him to choose wisely and follow Him, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him to me.” (Jn 6:44)
We just celebrated World Mission Sunday. We usually think of mission as going abroad to another country for the sake of the Gospel. Actually, mission, being the fruit of our union with Christ in Baptism, entails living, speaking, and acting in such a way that we bring the light of Christ into our dark world. We are on mission anywhere we find ourselves when we are conscious instruments of Christ’s light in our world.
This world is a dark and sinful place. The worldly spirit is different from and antagonistic to the light of Christ, “For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.”(1 Thes. 5:5) The world’s darkness is so strong that we can become worldly faster than we can evangelize the cultures of the world. Worldly mentalities silently slip into our lives and into the Church with all its futile and self-destructive ways of thinking and acting.
In the face of such darkness, we cannot become discouraged, give up, wallow in self-pity, or just curse the darkness. The light of Christ within us is much stronger than the darkness and it is meant to shine more brightly in the darkness. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not (and cannot) overcome it.”(Jn 1:5) We can learn from Bartimaeus how to overcome the darkness and be on mission with Jesus in our dark world.
Firstly, we must hear about Jesus regularly from His words directly. Bartimaeus was not satisfied in hearing about Jesus from the crowd; he was ready to encounter Him personally and hear His specific words to him, “Go on your way; your faith has saved you.” Likewise, we do not only depend on hearsay about Jesus, depending only on what Christian preachers and writers reveal about Jesus. We must also be open to receive from Him our own specific words through personal prayer and frequenting the sacraments, especially through Eucharistic adoration. It is only this personalized truth from Jesus that dispels and overcomes the particular form of darkness in our lives.
Secondly, we must call out to Jesus for mercy even if we cannot sense His presence with us. We call out, “Jesus, have pity on me,” when we receive the sacrament of Reconciliation often after examining our conscience well and resolving to follow Him more closely in mission. This sacrament dispels darkness in us and makes us bearers of Christ’s light in our world. Our experience of darkness in the world is worsened by our own interior darkness as Jesus said, “If then the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”(Mt 6:23)
Thirdly, we must choose carefully whom we listen to and believe today. Bartimaeus did not listen to the crowd when they tried to separate him from Jesus and make him feel unworthy of an audience with Jesus, “And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more.” Bartimaeus listened to them only when they helped him to come closer to Jesus, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
We cannot follow Jesus on mission in this world if we listen to and believe everything that everyone says. For example, the handbook on the ongoing synod on synodality asks for listening sessions with “people who have left the practice of the faith, people of other faith traditions, people of no religious belief, etc.” It seems have we forgotten that we are fallen beings easily drawn to error and capable of self-deception. We have forgotten that there are rabid enemies of the Church and the Catholic faith within and outside the Church who are ready to impose their evil agendas on the Church. Being missionary disciples today demands that we sometimes ignore and even rebuke persons when their words are contrary to the words of Christ and can lead us away from a greater faith, hope, and love for God.
Fourthly, we must come to Jesus without making any excuses. Bartimaeus did not make excuses about his blindness when Jesus called him to Himself, “He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.” Jesus calls us to Himself first before we can be on mission with Him and for Him. Because He assured us, “No one who comes to me will I reject,”(Jn 6:37) we have no valid excuse not to come to Him. Darkness has the upper hand when we stay away from Jesus for any reason.
Fifthly, we must beg Jesus for light to see and to follow Him in our dark world. In all the decisions that we make, let us first say to Him, “Lord, I want to see…Lord, I want to follow your way for me.” Darkness cannot overcome us when we constantly beg for His light and we are ready to follow the path that He shows to us no matter the past or what it may cost us.
Jesus assured us, “As long as I am in this world, I am the light of the world.”(Jn 9:5) He fulfills this promise to us in His Eucharistic presence with us. He is here with us and He offers us the only light that liberates and guides us. This light guides us in mission in this dark world and guides us home to Him.
God does not want us to live and choose in the dark. We will only end up doing stupid things, wasting our energy and time, and living in hopeless regret. He sent us His Son to die for us on the cross and rise so that we can have access to His light and radiate this light to others so they too can make godly choices.
No matter what we have done or the consequences of our free choices, God wants to set us free and guide us to Him from this very moment. Jesus is still leaving all to search for each of us to liberate us and guide us home by His light. He does not rebuke and give directions to the lost but found sheep, “When He has found it, He lays it on His shoulder, rejoicing. He then brings it home.”(Lk 15:5-6) He wants to do the same for us too today.
Like Bartimaeus, let us beg, “Master, I want to see.” When we follow this light of Jesus faithfully, we begin to make the decisions that give us life, fill us with gratitude, and bring us home to Him, step by step.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!