Jesus asked Bartimaeus: What do you want me to do for you? And Bartimaeus replied: Master, I want to see.
This Sunday I would like to reflect with you on the priestly dimension of Jesus’ encounter with this blind man. Largely I want to do this because of the connection I see with the liturgies of the Word of the last two Sundays. Previously we have heard “Leave all things behind” and “I have come to serve,” and both liturgies included passages from St. Paul’s “Letter to the Hebrews” which proclaims Jesus to be our “High Priest.” To me this is natural and most appropriate because priesthood is foundational to each of the themes flowing through the scriptures that have been proclaimed.
Please bear with me for a moment.
At the beginning of the account, Bartimaeus is being excluded; Jesus calls to him—includes him. The blind man shouts out “Jesus, son of David…!” Jesus celebrates and confirms his faith. It was presumed that the blind man was blind and forced to beg as the result of sin; Jesus reconciles him, absolves him. Bottom line: Jesus gives himself to Bartimaeus and his presence to him—his healing, saving, redeeming. Bartimaeus is again made whole.
Have I not just outlined the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Eucharist/Holy Communion? Actually, the sacrament of Matrimony is included as well if you understand Marriage to be the sacrament that makes real the presence of Jesus’ own marriage to his bride, the Church. Bartimaeus is Church to Jesus. He is all of us. What might be perceived as missing is the sacrament of Priesthood; but then we do not know the story’s ending.
Priesthood. WELL…last week we talked about the “missionary heart” and the week before about vocation and the necessary spirit of detachment. This week I feel behooved to observe the context of both of these, which is our universal priesthood. Jesus was being priest to Bartimaeus, (Eternal High Priest at that!); that is to say, he was mediating God’s life giving and saving grace to him—administering sacramental life to him. Therefore, just as by Baptism we are called and anointed to apostleship, discipleship, and to being missionaries, just so we are called and anointed to be Jesus’ priests—to be members of his universal priesthood.
Do you consider what you do in the name of Jesus Christ to be priestly? You should. Think about this: I could not have been ordained a priest for you—for the Church—without having been baptized into Jesus’ universal priesthood FIRST.
A final thought: The future of our Church and of our parish is wholly and “holy” dependant on understanding our membership in Jesus the High Priest. Once at a deanery meeting, the questions came up: “How do we face together the new models of pastoral ministry that will be necessitated by the diminishing number of priests?” and “How will we go about supporting each other for the duration?” One priest offered: “Well, it all depends on how we approach and understand universal priesthood and sacramental priesthood, doesn’t it? We really, REALLY need to chew on that question for a while. In the meantime I suggest that the answer lies somewhere between “Going My Way” and going the Holy Spirit’s way—or otherwise translated, Stewardship. When and if we do not probe what it means to be baptized into Jesus’ priesthood, we remain blind disciples and it is our general unrest that should make us cry out with Bartimaeus, “Lord that I may see!”