A reflection by Fr. Dave Warren, S.F.M., on Jeremiah 31.7-9; Hebrews 5.1-6; Mark 10.46-52
We voted this past week. The candidate of our choice may have won; the candidate of our choice may have lost. But, win or lose, our vote was taken seriously and our voice was heard.
In an election—or in any other decision—we would like to get our way. But, even if we don’t get our way, we want to have a voice.
I have a voice.
I have a voice in the Church. I have a voice in society. I participate in society and I like to think that I am making a contribution to society. But, then, doors are open to me. I am male. I am white. I have work. I have security. I have a Canadian passport.
I don’t know what it’s like to be excluded.
Bartimaeus knew what it was to be excluded. He was excluded by his handicap. But he was also excluded by society. Jewish society in the time of Jesus looked upon handicaps as a symptom of sin—either the victim’s own sin or the sin of his parents. Bartimaeus was excluded by society. And society wanted to keep Bartimaeus excluded. The crowd told Bartimaeus to shut up. The crowd wanted to take away his voice.
Bartimaeus speaks for all people who are excluded – the excluded people of his own time and the excluded people of every time.
Who are the excluded? People who are disvalued. The disvalued are people with handicaps. The disvalued are people who suffer discrimination. The disvalued are men and women who are unemployed or underemployed and so are excluded from full participation in the life of society. The disvalued are young people who are unable to break into the working world.
In his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis refers to “an economy of exclusion.” He says, “Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised—they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers.’” (#53)
The crowd tells Bartimaeus to shut up. But Jesus hears his voice and tells him to come forward. Then Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” It’s a rather strange question. Jesus must have known what Bartimaeus wanted. But Jesus wanted to hear it from Bartimaeus. Jesus wanted to give back to Bartimaeus his voice—the same voice that society wanted to take away from him.
Jesus takes the voice of Bartimaeus seriously and he takes seriously the voice of all who are crying out in pain. He takes seriously the voice of those who are crying for mercy.
Pope Francis has announced a Year of Mercy which will begin on December 8, 2015, and extend to November 20, 2016. The Pope has chosen to open the Year of Mercy on December 8 as it is the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. Vatican II marked the Roman Catholic Church’s new attitude toward the world, a more sympathetic and less judgmental attitude.
In his letter announcing the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis calls us to listen to the voice of “those living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes which modern society itself creates.”
As we show mercy, we experience mercy. Jesus hears the cry of Bartimaeus. He also hears our own cry for mercy.