Faith
lived.

“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, a son of Israel had faith. Indeed, scripture notes that his faith saved him.

Bartimaeus had an amazing faith. It was a faith that allowed him to shout when others preferred silence. It was a faith that motivated him to throw aside his cloak – maybe his only earthly possession. It was a faith that motivated him to follow Jesus’ way. That we should have such faith! This is faith that is unafraid, courageous, not counting the cost, ready to go.

Friends, we are called to exactly that kind of faith in the face of anger, prejudice, political opinion, and current events. Our country and our world are turned upside down. Our ability to look past labels has been blurred. Our call to love each person as another self – to welcome each person as we would welcome Christ… What happened to that?

We spent a week in the midst of bomb scares. Yesterday, eleven killed and eight more wounded. Our elder brothers and sisters in faith come to worship God and celebrate community are slaughtered. We listen to the voice of self-interested politicians taking Jesus’ name in vain, creating an unholy drumbeat of prejudice and greed. We must in turn be more like Bartimaeus. We must stand witness to the truth of Jesus’ teaching – As I have loved you, so you must love one another. The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends.

In 1938, Dietrich Bonhoeffer commented to a colleague, “If the synagogues are set on fire today, it will be the churches that will be burned tomorrow.” At the same time, Catholic priest Bernhard Lichtenberg declared from the pulpit “Let us pray for the persecuted ones… Outside, the temple is in flames. That too is a place of worship to God.” He included all Jews in his prayers and for that he was arrested, imprisoned for two years, released, arrested again and killed on the way to Dachau. They lived the faith as Bartimaeus did. So must we. “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling us.”

We can’t
lose.

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

Isn’t losing, missing the mark, coming up short, or being a moment too late frustrating?

If we have ever experienced anything like that we know just a bit of what Jairus, the synagogue official, must have felt as he rushed through the crowds with Jesus on the way home. His daughter lay dying. They were trying to run, but the crowds prevented them. The woman stopped Jesus, and they were distracted for those precious few moments. Jairus certainly was worried: I’m going to be too late, I can’t save her, and I’m going to lose.

With all this on his heart and mind, suddenly Jairus’ servants confronted them. They were blunt: “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” He should quit.

That is the essence of the Christian life, isn’t it? We are running toward our heavenly goal. We do all the things necessary to get there. We go to Jesus. We attend church, receive the sacraments, pray, and read scripture, but still feel from time-to-time like we are not going to make it. We often feel pressed upon, like how Jesus, His disciples, and Jairus felt as the crowds surrounded and pressed in on them. The world and its allures distract us and pull us away from our mission. They delay us, and ultimately try to make us feel like we are going to lose. We should just quit now.

What pulls us away – the typical excuses – I’m tired, I can’t make it, I don’t have time or energy, I’d rather do this, that, or the other thing. Jesus has me covered – I don’t need to do too much.

For people called to win, to be victors in Christ, we cannot take for granted or blow-off the effort we need to put out. We should be listening very carefully to the rest of today’s lesson. Wisdom tells us: But by the envy of the devil, death (losing) entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience losing.

We don’t belong to losing we belong to Jesus. Jesus told Jairus and those with Him to keep moving forward to win. “Do not be afraid; just have faith” Push back, stay on course, press on with Jesus and we can’t lose.

Faith and
courage.

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: ‘Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me’

It is a pretty exclusive deal to belong to Jesus. It requires more than just showing up. It requires a leap of faith and active courage.

The leap of faith is to do what Thomas failed to do after Jesus rose from the dead. To say I believe in You Lord. I welcome you into my life. I am Yours first and foremost. I am sorry for the wrongs I have committed. I trust in You Lord.

Courage is required for that, and even more so to keep at it, to live it out in front of friends, family, and the rest of the world.

Jochebed was Moses’ mother. She was one of God’s chosen people and more importantly a godly woman who stood with God and or her faith with courage.

Jochebed lived in a totally hostile environment – a slave, under subjugation who was forced without mercy to do bitter work. In the face of that she did not allow herself to surrender to hopelessness.

We would think the last straw came when Pharaoh ordered the killing of all of Israel’s first-born male infants. For Jochebed, that included her son Moses. Resistance would mean her death or a life in prison at best. But as a godly woman she was determined to resist and counter the evil pressures of Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s government, and anyone who went along with Pharaoh’s plan. She refused to go with the flow. She refused to consider her own life, comfort, convenience or safety. She refused to bow.

Jochebed, fearing God more than man, made a decision that, though it put her in great jeopardy, proved to be the decision that saved her nation. By seeking to preserve Moses’ life she saved Israel’s future lawgiver and the leader of the Exodus. She gave Moses everything she could during those first few months and then gave him up when she couldn’t hide him anymore. Certainly, after placing him afloat in the Nile she figured she’d never see him again, but she entrusted her child’s life and hers’ into God’s hands. She acted in faith and with courage and received back more than what she gave.

It was a mother’s love, faith and courage that saved her child from a cruel death and preserved him to bless the world. All godly moms do that. They trust in God and leave a legacy of faith and courage so that the world will be blessed in us.

Let us remember the godly women in our lives and be thankful for their example of faith and courage. More than that, let us live up to that faith and courage, and Jesus’ prayer for us, by our very lives.

Reflection for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2014

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Who’s out
there?

Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.

We are called to recognize and live in the power of God.

St. Paul was distraught because he saw the potential the Jesus offered His own people and the fact that His people, in large part, did not recognize the great gift of salvation He came to bring.

Jesus came walking out on the water. We often talk about the fact the Peter got out of the boat, and in faith came walking across the water toward Jesus. He would then falter in his faith and go sinking to the depths. It is a powerful image. We should recognize the fact that a lack of faith, a lack of recognition preceded that event. In the fourth watch of the night He went towards them, walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered, ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is You, tell me to come to You across the water.’

The disciples in the boat were rightly terrified but Jesus called out to them. Why didn’t they recognize His voice? They had been with Him for some time now. They heard Him preaching. They saw Him healing. Yet, in their moment of fear they failed to recognize the voice they had heard so often. Peter strongly challenged the voice he should have recognized. He challenged that voice to call him out onto the water.

As faithful Christians we hear the voice of Jesus at least weekly. If we read scripture and pray regularly, we hear Him daily. We should be well trained to recognize Him no matter the circumstance. Yet somehow, when we are afraid or troubled, we close our ears to His voice. We may even, like Peter, say: ‘if it is You, tell me to come to You across my troubles.’ When times are good, we may fail to recognize that He is there, providing for our good. When we have an opportunity for living out the image of Christ in us, we may forget that His image is in us and His grace is there to lead us in the right direction.

Paul was troubled because his people failed to recognize Jesus at all. As His disciples, we should be troubled if we do not recognize Him in every aspect of our lives.

Jesus calls us out onto the water, to take that big step, the leap of faith that shows how closely we are bound to Him. Let us recognize Him, His voice, and His powerful presence in every aspect of our lives and so live faithfully as His disciples. He says: ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’