30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 28, 2012)
“Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye” (St. Therese of Lisieux). Have you ever had an ache in your heart because you knew there was something more than what your eyes were seeing? The first time I laid eyes on my wife…my eyes saw a cute girl but my heart knew it saw true love. The first time I drank a beer in high school…by eyes saw peer pressure to fit in but my heart knew it was wrong. The first time I witnessed the Mass…my eyes saw only bread and wine but my heart knew it was just filled with God’s grace. Anytime I read something from the great Saints like Therese of Lisieux, Padre Pio, John of the Cross or Augustine…my eyes see words on a page but my heart is restless because it sees heaven in their lives.
In an odd way, this reminds me of my prayer life of recent days. It goes a little something like this…“Listen God, I could really use some more money right now. Seriously, I would have a lot less stress in my life if you’d help me with these student loans, mortgage payments and credit card bills. Plus, if you let me win the lottery, I promise to pay off the building fund! Then everyone would be happy at church because we wouldn’t have to hear about how everyone needs to give more money to the collection basket! Just give me a few million dollars. Then I’ll be happy.” Well guess what? God apparently keeps forgetting to use MY numbers when those silly little balls pop up out of the lottery machine! He’s obviously ignoring my prayers. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Jesus say in Scripture that anything I ask in His name will be granted to me?? Hello! I specifically remember praying, “Jesus, I need more money. Please let me win the lottery. I ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.” How much clearer do I have to be? I don’t think God is doing a very good job at listening to me.
You see right now, like many Americans, my eyes see financial uncertainty but my heart knows there is something more to all of this.
Recently I watched a movie called “Bruce Almighty”. Jim Carey plays a man named Bruce who thought he could do a better job at being “God” than God Himself. You see Bruce thought God was ignoring him. So God, played by Morgan Freeman, appeared to Bruce and gave him all of His divine powers to be used however he saw fit so that God could take a long overdue vacation. There were only two rules, Bruce couldn’t tell anyone he was god and he couldn’t mess with free will. Naturally, Bruce immediately mis-used his powers for his own personal gain. He got a fancy sports car, took revenge on a co-worker that always treated him poorly, became the most romantic boyfriend in the world and even made all of the cars in a traffic jam move out of his way much like how Moses parted the Red Sea.
But at night, Bruce kept hearing little voices in his head. He was hearing the prayers of everyone around the world. This prevented him from sleeping so he used his divine powers to make everyone’s prayers get emailed to his computer instead of hearing them in his head. The only problem was that for every prayer he read and answered, 10 more were emailed to him immediately. He couldn’t get caught up. So he simply did a “reply all” and answered every prayer that was in his inbox at one time. By the push of a button on Bruce’s keyboard, 3.5 million people around the world had their prayers answered with a simple “yes.”
Wouldn’t that be nice! God, can I win the lottery? YES! God, can you make everyone do things my way? YES! God, can I have an expensive sports car and make lots of money? YES! God, can I get straight A’s at school without studying? YES! In the movie, everyone got what he or she wanted. Everyone was happy…right??? WRONG!
Chaos entered the world. People thought the lottery was rigged because thousands of them all won the same jackpot and had to spit it making their winnings around $17 each. Others got even greedier and wanted more. People were thinking it was a sign of the Apocalypse and everyone started to riot. Meanwhile, Bruce was so caught up in his own needs and playing “God” that he pushed his girlfriend right out of his life. He managed to gain everything he wanted from the world (money, cars, fame) but yet lose the one thing he truly desired deep down in his heart…the love of his girlfriend. Bruce finally admitted he was a failure at being god and called out this key phrase, “I don’t want to be God anymore. I want You to decide what is right for my life!” So the real God came back and asked Bruce what he really cared about…what he wanted. His reply was simply, “Grace.” Not only is this a reference to God’s grace, but also Grace was the name of his girlfriend. Then we get the hit-you-in-the-gut, knock-it-out-of-the-park, take-home message of the entire film. God asks, “Do you want her back?” Bruce replies, “No, I want her to be happy, no matter what that means. I want her to find someone who will treat her with all the love she deserved from me. I want her to meet someone who’ll see her always as I do now, through Your eyes.”
Isn’t this is what we hear in today’s Gospel reading? Bartimaeus, a blind man, knows in his heart who Jesus is even though he’s never seen Him. So when he hears Jesus nearby he cries out for help, “Son of David, have pity on me.” This gets Jesus’ attention and He calls the man over. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks. “Master, I want to see!” The first thing the man sees when his blindness is lifted is Jesus. The first action he takes after gaining his sight is to follow Jesus without hesitation.
You and I are the blind man. We are often blind to the truth and can’t always see Jesus but our hearts tell us He’s close by. We know He has a marvelous plan for our lives but we can’t always see it because we’re not God. So we worry and get stressed out over money, bills, jobs, family, friends and so on. But deep down we ache to see Him and want assurance that Jesus is still in charge of our lives…even when we don’t understand what’s going on because of our blindness.
I believe Jesus doesn’t appear to be answering our prayers sometimes because He knows we aren’t ready, don’t really need what we’re asking for, or won’t be able to handle the answer at that very moment in our life. He knows that if He fully revealed His plan for us, we may hesitate or turn away for whatever reason. Do you really think the early Christian martyr’s would have died for Christ if the people who evangelized them opened up the discussion with, “Lions will tear you apart limb by limb in the coliseum if you become a Christian. Now, let me tell you about Jesus.” And maybe that’s just it, by not answering the prayers we are sending, He really is answering our prayers by sparing us from something He knows we aren’t ready for just yet…like my multi-million dollar lottery jackpot that I can’t seem to win.
Now for the hit-you-in-the-gut, knock-it-out-of-the-park, take-home message of my entire homily, so pay attention: For the true Christian, everything leads to Christ. All sufferings, all struggles, all broken roads, all prayers that we think God is ignoring, everything, is preparing us to see our Lord face to face. No matter the brokenness it may cause in our current life’s situation, we have to believe there is a higher purpose for our occasional blindness. And when Jesus decides to lift our blindness so that we can see through His eyes, I pray that each one of us is ready to respond to Him without hesitation and follow.