Sundays of Ordinary Time, B

Nov. 24, 2018

“MY KINGDOM DOES NOT BELONG TO THIS WORLD”

Readings: 1st- Dan. 7:13-14; 2nd- Rev. 1:5-8; Gospel- John 18:33b-37

What does Pilate mean when he asks Jesus this question, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He means to secure his Roman Empire, to keep safe his earthly kingdom. Pilate feels threatened. From a political perspective, he sees Jesus as a political conspirator who has come to snatch his dynasty away. From a Jewish nationalist perspective, he views Jesus as that political-religious liberator who will free a foreign dominated state. He has reasons to be afraid.

The passage of today’s gospel is about the judgment that delivers Christ to his Cross, so, we see an intense conversation between Pilate and Jesus. Jesus is direct with Pilate. It is time to declare his mission, to make known his kingship. To the question, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He asks Pilate, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate exhibits an attitude of defense. Rather than answer the question, he claims, “I am not a Jew, am I?” If he is not a Jew, then what authority has he to administer judgment on Jesus? That depicts fear, anxiety, and ignorance about the identity and mission of Jesus. Pilate cannot escape blame for conspiracy of judgment in his handling of Jesus. He therefore engages in a series of questions and answers that betray his emotions. 

But the focus here is Jesus, not Pilate. Jesus’ answer to Pilate’s question, “What have you done?” is, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdoms did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” 

Let’s track this statement back to the beginning of Christ’s mission. The temptation scene presents us with Jesus facing the devil in the desert. The devil takes Jesus to a very high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor with the words, “I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.” Jesus replies, “Scripture says, “The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, him alone must you serve” (Matt. 4:8-10). It is clear from the beginning that Jesus’ kingdom is not earthly. So, Pilate and the devil seem to be thinking alike. They imagine that Jesus has come to put up a fight like earthly kings do, to possess and pursue power based on human assessment. The next proof we see about Jesus’ kingdom is at the time of his arrest. Simon Peter draws his sword to fight for his Master. Jesus doesn’t permit that. Rather, he cautions Peter to shield his sword with the words, “Put your sword back in its scabbard; am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me” (Jn. 18:10-11).

What constitutes Jesus’ kingdom? The second reading from the book of Revelation gives us some highlights about the attributes of his kingship: 

-Christ is the faithful witness

-Christ is the firstborn of the dead

-Christ is the ruler of the kings of the earth

-Christ is the one who loves and has freed us from our sins by his blood

-Christ is the one who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father

-Christ is the Yes and Amen

-Christ is the Alpha and the Omega

-Christ is the one who is and who was and who is to come 

-Christ is the All-Mighty.

He is the Son of Man, who, as Daniel prophesies, is coming amid the clouds. He is with an everlasting dominion that not even Pilate can take away. Every eye will see him including those who pierced him. There is no hiding from the reality of his kingship; the prophet Daniel declares “all peoples, nations, and languages” are subject to him. 

Pilate’s eyes seem to open at this point, so he asks approvingly, “Then you are a king,” and Jesus affirms it, “You say I am a king.” Jesus takes that moment to explain to Pilate the nature of his kingship: “For this I was born and for this I came into this world to testify to the truth” (Jn. 18:37). It is like saying to him, “Now you know it. That’s my kingdom. It’s not like yours.” Jesus’ kingdom is this; “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). As the Almighty, Jesus commands a royalty that transcends earthly powers. He commands the kingdom of his Father, that all may be saved through him. Unfortunately, like Pilate, those who focus on earthly possessions and power don’t understand the kingdom of Christ. It resides in his suffering, death, and resurrection. 

Ordinarily, every kingship has its paraphernalia -staff of office, its regalia and various emblems of royalty. We might ask, what are the insignia of Jesus’ kingship? First of all, he rides on a borrowed ass into Jerusalem. The people chant for him just for a while, “Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” And Jesus says to his disciples, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death” (Matt. 20:18). Isn’t that his kingship? The Cross is Jesus’ symbol of power and authority. It is his Staff of office. His crown is the thorns on his head. As he is elevated on his Cross-throne, he declares judgment of mercy upon the world beginning with the thief beside him, “This day, you will be with me in paradise.” Next, he acquits his executioners, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” His kingship is a universal kingship. The Cross has power over the whole universe. He declares, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (Jn. 12:32). Jesus is king indeed.  

Now, we are members of Christ’s kingdom. It is the kingdom of peace and justice. It is the kingdom of healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. It is the kingdom of faithfulness and trust. It is the kingdom of strength and support, of compassion and mercy. It is the kingdom of light and love. Let us declare Jesus king in our lives. Tell him to reign in you. Tell him to reign at all times. Tell him to use you to extend his kingdom to those around you, so that the world may embrace his reign. He is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. There is nothing he cannot do in your life. 

Nov. 17, 2018

“HEAVEN AND EARTH WILL PASS AWAY, BUT MY WORDS WILL NOT PASS AWAY”

Readings: 1st- Dan. 12:1-3; 2nd- Heb. 10:11-14, 18; Gospel- Mk. 13:24-32

Two options are possible when one is entering into the exam hall: confidence or fear. To feel confident is usually a good experience. Perhaps, you step in with expectations of solving difficult questions, then realize that the questions are really cheap. The expression on the face is that of satisfaction, smile, something like, “Is that all?” That is confidence. On the other hand, going into an exam hall unprepared or less prepared is usually accompanied by some trepidation. The feeling is usually that of a wishful expectation. You pray for luck perhaps hoping to make some successful guess. Most times, it doesn’t work that way, then you feel frustrated, disappointed. The readings of today remind us of the need for preparations in the long-term-examination of our lives. The judgment of God will be based on the preparations we make in this world, our ability to abide by the words that God speaks to us while on earth.

The first thing to note is that today is the last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical calendar. The church presents us with the signs of end times just as we end the church’s liturgical year. In the first reading, the prophet Daniel describes the dangers of unpreparedness. That time shall be surpassed by distress. There will be the separation of the righteous from the unrighteous. The righteous will awake and shine. The unrighteous shall sink into everlasting horror and disgrace. 

The theme of preparedness is continued in the Gospel with Jesus speaking in one of the most fearful tones; the days that follow will be marked by tribulation: “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken” (Mk. 13:24-25). Here, Jesus recapitulates what the prophet Isaiah said about the signs that will follow the destruction of sinners: “The stars and constellations of the heavens send forth no light. The sun is dark when it rises, and the light of the moon does not shine. Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their guilt” (Is. 13:10-11). In the Scripture, punishment is usually associated with darkness. In this case, the cosmic forces will simply come to a halt. The darkness here signifies the absence of the goodness of God in the life of the sinner. Against such horror Jesus warns, “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:23). That’s like a spiritual shut-down.

In that apocalyptic vision presented in the gospel, we see the image of the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. Christ will arise in those last moments as we profess in the Creed, “to judge the living and the dead.” The angels will be dispatched to gather God’s elect. The first reading from Daniel narrates that the archangel Michael, the great prince, will rise to fight on our behalf. God’s people will be protected from the destruction. That’s why we say the prayer to Saint Michael the archangel to defend us in battle against the wickedness and snares of the devil.

The next thing is the uncertainty of the end times. Christ uses the analogy of the fig tree to describe the prediction of seasons. The trees lose their leaves in the winter, as if they’re dead. The leaves sprout again in the spring to announce the coming of summer. In the same way, the burning out of the cosmos will signal the end of the old and the arrival of the new world order. The important message is this; “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mk. 13:32). 

End time messages therefore are not meant to scare us in the strict sense. Such messages should rather inspire us to appreciate the reality of the opportunity we have in Christ. What is important? To prepare. Not to be caught unawares. Christ tells us that heaven and earth will pass away. What will remain are the words that he presents to us. Humanity itself shall pass away. Earthly possessions will pass away. Power and fame will pass away. Physical connections will pass away. External beauty and attraction will pass away. Social status will pass away. Biological affiliations will pass away. Everything in this world will pass away, but God’s word will never because God is the beginning and the end. 

Therefore, God’s word invites us to readiness about end times. When is it going to be? Certainly, we do not know. What is expected of us? Like students going in for examination, we have to go in with confidence and not fear. If we prepare, we become confident. If we fail to prepare, we become afraid. We all have been given the syllabus and the rubric for the course. The syllabus is God’s commandment: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your soul. You must love your neighbor as yourself.” The rubric is the standard for evaluation, namely: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all nations will be assembled before him… Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcome me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison and you did not care for me… And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matt. 25:31-46). That is the real end time. 

Let us prepare for it now.

 

Nov. 10, 2018

Readings: 1st- 1 Kgs. 17:10-16; 2nd- Heb. 9:24-28; Gospel- Mk. 12:38-44

THE WIDOW’S MITE VERSUS OUR HUMAN MIGHT (different spelling)

The readings of today furnish us with images of two widows in the Bible- the widow of Zarephath in the Old Testament and the widow of the gospel. Both widows highlight some aspects of our human and societal living: total reliance on God and recognition of those at the margins. 

Elijah, the prophet, visits the widow of Zarephath. Zarephath is an idolatrous, economically prosperous city which at the time was experiencing famine as a result of drought. This widow depicts almost all the impossibilities of human existence and livelihood. She has just little to live on. There’s famine in the land. Elijah requests for something to eat. The woman is willing to give him something, yet worries about her future because she has nothing to offer. To prove herself, she swears using Elijah’s God: “As the Lord, your God lives, I have nothing baked, there is only a handful of flour in my jar and a little oil in my jug” (1 Kgs. 17:12). What’s this widow’s plan? Practically nothing, just wait for death. After eating their last reserve, they die of hunger. This woman is facing an extreme situation in the human sense. She’s living on the margins of the society. Elijah is aware of her situation (Read 1Kgs. 17:1-9). He provides hope for her with the words, “Do not be afraid.” Still the widow gives her last despite her apparent hopeless situation. The result is this: her jar of flour does not go empty; her jar of oil does not run dry.

In the gospel, we see a similar situation. Jesus compares two classes of individuals in the society: the rich Scribes who go around in long robes and the poor widow. The rich show off in the market places. They take reserved seats at the synagogues and at banquets. They take advantage of the poor like widows and even pretend to offer prayers for them. They give their might. Then you have the poor persons represented by the widow who gives her mite. Why does Jesus sit down purposely to count the individuals who donate to the temple? We are not sure why he does that but we do know that Jesus is calling out the rich people in their attitude to display wealth and intimidate the poor. 

The major question here is, what is different between the poor widow’s offering and the rich people’s donations to the treasury? One might say that Jesus has always been biased against the rich in a general sense? The answer to that question is given in Jesus’ remark to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mk. 12:43-44). The big, rich donors donate from their might while the widow donate her mite, her livelihood. She empties herself. 

In the first place, it is ironic that the widow gives only “two small coins worth a few cents.” What difference does that make compared to the big donations that the rich are making? Isn’t that a reasonable question to ask? The disciples will also be wondering how two small coins make more impact than the big donations that are tangible. Jesus teaches us to notice the very insignificant things that the poor do. The immediate human reaction is to appreciate the big, to acknowledge the wealthy. The human reaction is to identify big donations. God identifies the small things done from a pure heart.

Second, the mind that gives is important. The rich who donate still have fortunes left. They donate out of their surplus probably with little impact on their wealth. The widow donates sacrificially, gives of herself. Her donation is about commitment. 

Third, the widow’s mite is an offering in faith. Like the widow of Zarephath, this widow gives with absolute dependence and trust in God. She’s not sure of what happens after her offering, yet she believes that something positive will happen. That’s faith. The rich people give to show off, to be noticed admired by the treasury keepers. They give to demonstrate their wealth. The widow gives to express generous support for God’s work. She depicts faith in God.

The widow’s offering today, offers us some lessons. We need to give not minding who’s watching. Sometimes we’re not acknowledged. That’s not important as to our genuine offering from the heart. The widow of Zarephath and her offering to Elijah reminds us that sometimes we might be entertaining angels without knowing. Remember Abraham’s case with the three visitors in the Old Testament (Gen. 18:1-15). Abraham gives to those people without knowing they’re angels from God. The widow of Zarephath gives to Elijah without knowing he’s a prophet sent by God. The word angel means messenger. Elijah is also an angel in that sense. Angels move in the form of human beings. Sometimes we entertain them without knowing. Giving generously attracts blessings from God. Let us be generous to those we meet. They may be the angels we entertain.

The widow of the gospel teaches us to give of ourselves. No strings attached. It is not about might but about mite, not about what is left but about what is given. It is about the heart that gives. In the US, for example, most people give because they expect tax deduction. That’s the attitude of the rich. Tax deductions get us payback from the government. It’s reasonable to get back deductions but the implication is that such donations become investment in a sense. The rich people who give to the treasury had such business mindset. They give for payback purposes. The widow gives without any human expectation. We have to be sacrificial in our donations. We have to donate in faith. 

Maybe the guys here need also to reflect on why women are presented as the standard of generosity as depicted in today’s readings. My thought is that it shows us the difference between religion in the head and religion in the heart. Most times, men rationalize faith while women emotionalize it. Whereas it is good to rationalize, it is more rewarding to be available for God without counting gains. In the case of donation towards God’s project, we need emotions. The payback comes from God. Elijah says, “For the Lord, the God of Israel, says, “The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry.” That is faith, trust, total dependence on God’s ability to replenish the purse that gives. It transcends human reason which follows logic. The widow would have thought, “I would lack afterwards.” But God provides not in surplus. God appreciates our sacrifices not our display of wealth or power.

Nov. 4, 2018

HEAR, O ISRAEL!”

Readings: 1st- Deut. 6:2-6; 2nd- Heb. 7:23-28; Gospel- Mk. 12:28-34

The first reading and the gospel of today have great connections. Two things immediately stand out: The challenge to “LOVE” and to “HEAR!” In the first reading, Moses reminds the Israelites of the covenant relationship with God. The commandments of God are meant to be kept all the days of their lives. The Israelites are to observe them in order to prosper and grow in the land given to them by God. The mandate is to reciprocate God’s love since he has already shown the depth of his love by bringing them out of slavery and protecting them from their enemies. Hence, in return they are to love the Lord with full commitment. Only God (monotheism) shall they love and no other. But how can they keep God’s commandments? The key word is to “hear” what God has to say. The word “hear” is used strongly in those two verses; “Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them” (Deut. 6:3), and “Hear, O Israel!” (Deut. 6:4). Moses invites the people to hear (a word in Hebrew that means sema) that the one and only God should take precedence in their lives. They must love the Lord with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their strength. They are to take those words to heart, that’s what it means to hear.

The gospel presents the encounter between Christ and the Scribe. The young man puts a question to Jesus about which is the greatest commandment. Jesus’ first reaction is to refer him to the Old Testament passage which should be familiar to him as a Jew; “Hear, O Israel! The Lord your God is one Lord”. That’s the starting point. You can only know the Lord’s commandments when you hear them. In this case, Christ calls the young man’s attention to the main subject of the Christian life: Love of God your Creator and love of your neighbor as yourself. These are the greatest commandments.

While reflecting on this gospel passage, I notice the reaction of the young man while Jesus speaks to him. He is attentive. He recapitulates every word that Christ says using exactly Christ’s words. His approach is called “active listening and reflection.” That’s a strong skill which could be useful in every relationship. The Scribe tells Christ after listening, “You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” The Bible narrates that, “when Jesus saw that he answered with “understanding”, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” To answer with understanding means to able to listen. This young man is able to understand the words of Jesus and to take them in. He pays attention to Jesus’ words. 

Listening and hearing play a key role to our understanding of God’s will in our lives. They are necessary ingredients in every relationship including our relationship with God. Saint Paul calls our minds to the role of understanding when he says, “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:8-9). But how can we believe and be saved? Paul goes further to tell us, “But it is in that way faith comes, from hearing, and that means hearing the word of Christ” (Rom.10:17). The young man who comes to Jesus listens and understands that to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength implies listening to God when he speaks. Listening to Jesus deepens his understanding of what he knows at the time.

How about loving your neighbor as yourself? Don’t we need listen to our neighbors? Let’s start right from our relationships. How many of us listen to our spouses, children, parents, and friends? How many of us listen actively without always attempting to complete the other person’s sentences when they speak to us? How can you hear the neighbor when she/he speaks? Practice what the Scribe does with Jesus; reflect back the person’s statements to him/her. It looks simple but it is an act that gives the other person the impression of your presence, undivided attention and compassion. Listening is an act of love. Say back those words to the individual. See if you can capture them as they’re said. Tell her, “I heard you say...”, “You are right in saying...”, I understand you to mean...” Try it in your relationships, don’t just jump in to say what you think or what is in your head. We need a society that listens. We need leaders that listen. We need politicians that listen. We need employers that listen. We need pastors and ministers that listen. We need lawyers that listen. We need teachers that listen. We need nurses that and doctors that listen. We need husbands/wives that listen. We need friends that listen. The more we listen, the more we love. On the contrary, the more you jump in to finish the statement for your wife, husband, friend, colleague, employer, employee, etc., the less the person feels heard, and the less appreciated.

My challenge for all of us today is a simple one. Scripture tells us today, “Listen/Hear O Israel! Can you suffix your name for Israel and say, “Listen O Vincent! Listen O Janet! Listen O Andrea!” Maybe you have not been listening, but you didn’t know that. That’s what I want you to do. Go home and listen to what your husband/wife, friend or your neighbor is telling you. First, hear what God tells you. Pay attention when he speaks. Sit and listen. Hear him and understand his will for you. The second is to listen to your neighbor as yourself. Find out what she/he needs. Reflect back to her/him and be sure you hear well. Show compassion. Show presence. Show support. Show empathy. Show love. The Psalm says, “I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly” (Ps. 85:8). The best way to show love is to listen. Let’s go home and listen. Through listening we get to the heart of the one who speaks.

 

 

 

Oct. 27, 2018

THE PRIEST AND THE PRAYER OF BARTIMAEUS

Readings: 1st- Jer. 31:7-9; 2nd- Heb. 5:1-6; Gospel- Mk. 10:46-52

We’re continuing our series on prayers this week. In the gospel (Mk. 10:46-52), Bartimaeus offers us a great example of prayer. Before we look at Bartimaeus’ prayer approach, let us take a quick glance at the high priest narrative as presented by the Letter to the Hebrews. 

The Jewish tradition placed strong emphasis on the priesthood. Right from the Old Testament, the role of the priest was emphasized. The high priest was a member of his community, chosen from the community to perform special role, to serve God on behalf of the people. The priest is therefore part of the community that prays. He occupies a middle-ground and intercedes for the people before God. But the priest is human, “he is taken from among men and made their representative before God” (Heb. 5:1).

One major function of the priest is to offer sacrifices for the expiation of sins. Because the priest is human, he carries in his body the weaknesses of every other human being. For this reason, the priest is to offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of his sins as well as those of the people. Priests are called to recognize the need to seek God’s help to overcome their weakness.

The Hebrew writer highlights important dynamics of the priestly calling. “No one takes the honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was” (Heb. 5:4). Aaron is specifically called to the priestly office, different from the role of Moses in the Old Testament. God said to Moses, "From among the Israelites, summon your brother Aaron and his sons to be priests in my service: Aaron and Aaron's sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar." (Ex. 28:1) Aaron performed sacrifices on behalf of the Israelites while Moses provided the leadership. At one point, Moses approached Aaron with the request, “Come near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering, that you may make atonement for yourself and for the people; then make the offering for the people, that you may make atonement for them, just as the LORD has commanded." (Lev. 9:7)

Christ is the high priest of the New Testament. He offers himself as the definitive sacrifice. Last Sunday’s reading reminded us that, “We have a great high priest, Jesus, the Son of God” (Heb. 4:14-15). Christ is the eternal high priest offers his body and blood for our salvation. He establishes the ministry of the priesthood at the Last Supper and invites priests to celebrate the mystery of his saving love for the people; “Do this in memory of me.” No one takes the honor of being priest on himself, not even the pope. Rather, the priesthood is a vocation. It is not just a career and not like any other job. The priesthood is no business. The priest offers himself as sacrifice. Then he represents the people before God and prays on their behalf.   

Christ the eternal high priest, encounters Bartimaeus in the gospel. He brings compassion and justice into the priesthood. Christ accepts the blind man despite the reaction of the crowd. He brings him out of the periphery and makes him a disciple. Christ put forward to Bartimaeus the same question he asked James and John, the sons of Zebedee, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mk. 10:36-37). Jesus teaches the crowd that justice doesn’t depend on the reaction of the majority. He defends the dignity of Bartimaeus and his human right as a child of God and a member of the society. Jesus represents answered prayers.

 

The gospel of Mark tells us that Bartimaeus is a blind man who sits by the roadside begging. He hears that Jesus is passing his way. He cries out, shouting loudly, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” The physically able, strong and privileged try to shut him down. They rebuke him and command that he be silent. Bartimaeus wouldn’t listen to the voices that do not represent Jesus. He refuses to be distracted. He keeps calling out the more to Jesus, “Son of David, have pity on me.” The voice of the blind man is eventually heard by Jesus who invites the crowd to bring Bartimaeus to him. Bartimaeus throws away his cloak, breaks bonds with his inhibition, and springs up to Jesus. When asked what might be needs, he is very assertive and direct with his answer, “Master, I want to see” (Mk. 10:52).

What is the one factor in Bartimaeus’ action that we can emulate in our prayer life? The answer is that there will always be obstacles on our journey to reach God. The road to assessing God is not an easy one. Look at these: the crowds try to shut Bartimaeus down. Those who are enjoying the privilege of sight want to prevent him from reaching out to Jesus. They prefer him being a beggar. They scold him for daring to profess his faith and express his needs. They demand him to keep quiet. They intimidate him. But this blind man teaches us courage in the face of faith-opposition. This crowd in your case could be your family members that don’t do religion, who wouldn’t want you to express your faith. They intimidate you from praying. They’re unsettled when you mention the name Jesus in the house. They are uncomfortable that you even go to church. As a result, you become like someone at the periphery. Your voice seems so lonely and you feel powerless among your people. They simply want to stop you.

Bartimaeus is a great encouragement for you. Once Jesus encounters him, everything changes. “What do you want me to do for you?” is the great question. In a deeper sense, it demonstrates God’s concern for his people. God listens even in the midst of the turbulence and distractions. In the ensuing noise and opposition to our faith, God listens. His words are, “I am the Lord that healeth thee” (Ex. 15:26). And that question comes directly to you, “What do you want me to do for you?” God wants to respond to your appeals and to your cry. Keep calling! Faith does not give in to distractions, challenges, and oppositions. Those cannot deter you. Go ahead and call on God. Faith is that inner vision of the ability of God to answer. It provides insight to God’s goodness and steadfastness. Remember what Christ told his disciples when he taught them perseverance in prayer, “"I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it to him for friendship's sake, persistence will make him get up and give his friend all he wants. 'So, I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; everyone who searches finds; everyone who knocks will have the door opened" (Lk. 11:8-10).