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Take Courage, Get Up, He is Calling You

October 24, 2021
Christ Giving Sight to Bartimaeus by William Blake  (1757–1827)  Yale Center for British Art.   

A reflection for the 30th Sunday, Ordinary Time, year B. The readings are Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126; Hebrews 5:1-6 and Mark 10:46-52

Today, the universal Church observes World Mission Sunday (in fact the whole month of October is Missionary Month). It’s always on the second last Sunday of October, established by Pope Pius XI in 1926 in order to collect funds for missionaries and missions worldwide. This special collection for the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fidei) still exists today and is held in many parishes around the world. But, more importantly, this is a day when we are reminded to pray for missions and missionaries all over. And for us in North America, we have to remember that today, many missionaries are coming from the developing world and the global south here to North America to do mission. Today is also a very good day to remind ourselves of our universal call to mission. I’ve written about this many times before: We are all called to be missionaries. It doesn’t mean you have to go off to another country; but it does mean that we need to spread the Good News everywhere we go and all the time.

It’s not hard to do.

A missionary is someone who tells others about something they love. The best analogy that I can think of for being a missionary is what I do when I hear about someone who’s going to visit Panama. I get so excited that they are going to my home country. I tell them where they should go: they have to go here and there (and not go here) and they have to go to this restaurant and when they go there they have to order this particular dish. That’s being a missionary. Telling someone about something you know and love. The pope’s message for this year’s World Mission Sunday is based on the theme, taken from Acts 4:20: We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard”

That’s what being a missionary is. We can all do that.

If you’re wondering how else you can be a good missionary, today’s readings give us five good suggestions as to how to be a good missionary.

The first thing is in the Psalm. A good missionary is full of joy because the Lord has done great things for her. And she tells others: “We are filled with joy for the Lord has done great things for us!” That’s basic.

Another good quality for a missionary is to be like the Messiah figure that Jeremiah describes in the first reading today. He will gather the people and lead them, he will console them and be like a father to them. When we do these things, in the name of Christ, we are being missionaries.

The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews talks about what the high priests do: they sometimes have to be patient with the ignorant and with those in error. Sometimes, when we do it in the name of Christ, that is the work of a missionary. I would add that sometimes, as missionaries, we have to teach the ignorant and correct those in error. But we do it with love.

In the Gospel we get something else that’s important for all missionaries. We hear how the blind man, Bartimaeus, cries out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” That cry is the voice of suffering that we all have, crying out. We all have that voice of suffering deep down inside of us. It can be well hidden under all the anger, sarcasm, cynicism, bitterness, aloofness, pretending not to care – we hide it well, but we all have it. That voice of suffering is the voice inside all of us that cries, “Where are you, God?!” That is what Bartimaeus is crying. At the beginning of every Mass we pray very similar words, “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy.” I think we sort of know what we mean when we say those words, but I realized this weekend, that what we are doing with the Penitential Rite is getting in touch with our own voice of suffering and crying out to God, “where are you?”

A good missionary can recognize the voice of suffering in all people. And they have a choice. They can be like the people in the Gospel that try to shut it down. Sometimes we do that. Or we can be a good missionary and encourage that person: “Get up. Take courage. He is calling you!” That is the work of a missionary: to give hope; recognize the voice of suffering in people and tell them to “get up. Take courage. He is calling you!”

But perhaps the most important part of being a missionary is found again, in the second reading. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that what makes a good high priest is that he is the same as the people. He recognizes the weaknesses of people because he, himself is weak. A good missionary hears the voice of suffering in others because he has first heard his own voice of suffering. That’s why Jesus was a good high priest – not because he was weak – but because he was human like us. He knew the voice of suffering because he suffered. He knew pain and betrayal. He knew what it was like to feel abandoned and afraid. He knew what it was like to lose a loved one. He knows our suffering. He knows your suffering.

If you want to be a good missionary, you have to, first be in touch with your own voice of suffering.

And you can start today, because today Jesus is passing by. Today you can, in your heart, cry out to him, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” Say it to him in your heart. And then listen to me telling you right now, “Take courage. Get up. He is calling you.” Listen to him calling you. Go to him and listen to him as he asks you, “What do you want me to do for you?” What do you want him to do for you? He knows what you want and what you need, but he wants you to know it too. He wants you to say it. Tell him.

Next time you receive him in the Eucharist, as he is present to you, ready to be recieved by you, hear him ask you, “What do you want me to do for you?” and then tell him.

And then, let him heal you. Let him take away your pain. Let him take away your fears and your doubts. Let him unbind your chains and set you free. Let him make you whole, so that, like Bartimaeus you can follow him on the way. And then, you can, like a good missionary, filled with joy, go and tell others the great things the Lord has done for you.

From → English, Reflections

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