‘Faith is what makes life bearable’

By | October 24, 2012

Jericho was a city that Jesus visited from time to time. In Jericho there were blind beggars and wealthy tax collectors and families with all kinds of problems. The people came to Jesus for healing and to find the meaning of life.

One such person was Bartimaeus, an individual lacking financial resources and sight. Being a blind beggar was to be in a very vulnerable situation. Bartimaeus asked for pity; Bartimaeus asked to see. Jesus was clear about what happened: faith healed Bartimaeus. This was not faith in one’s strength or one’s own beauty or one’s own superiority. It was faith in Jesus who incarnated the compassion of the Father.

Perhaps Bartimaeus’ faith was somewhat like Madeleine L’Engle’s reflection: “Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.” Faith is not something neat and clear. It is messy. It is able to embrace sufferings and tragedies such as blindness and poverty; it is able to be taken by surprise and filled with joy. Surely this was the faith of St. Paul, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Francis. Tragedy, ambiguity and joy all wrapped up into one.

Every priest is taken out of the ordinary ranks and every priest is beset with weaknesses. But it is precisely this weakness that becomes a blessing because it can and should lead to compassion. Priests and people are in the same canoe; they all experience the human condition. They suffer to some degree the same afflictions as Bartimaeus: blindness and poverty.

Fr. Michael Buckley once raised a haunting question: “Is this man weak enough to be a priest?” He went on to explain: “Let me spell out what I mean. Is this man deficient enough so that he can’t ward off significant suffering from his life, so that he lives with a certain amount of failure, so that he feels what it is to be an average man? Because it is in this deficiency, in this interior lack, in this weakness, maintains Hebrews, that this efficacy of the ministry and priesthood of Christ lies.”

Jeremiah goes on to say that God will gather people from ends of the earth and this will involve an immense throng. We know in faith that God wills the salvation of all people.

Questions for reflection

1. Why is faith such a powerful grace?

2. Is weakness a “bad” thing?

3. Who in the end will be saved? Just a few or many?

Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.

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