Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
The Rev. Elizabeth Broyles
Proper 25, Year B - Sunday, October 28, 2012
Mercify, Jesus, Son of David, mercify !
That is a more accurate translation of Bartimaeus’ cry today, according to one Biblical commentator. We don’t have such a word in our language. Be assured, though, that mercy is a verb in this passage.
Would that we could all know what we need of Jesus-- and cry out-- this nakedly.
Try it on for size.
Mercify! Mercify me!
If that doesn’t work for you, try the more familiar cry: Help me! God help me! We all have times when we cry this—but usually not in public.
Bartimaeus knew what he needed—knew what he longed for. Jesus heard him over the din of the crowd, stopped in his tracks, and asked him “What do you want me to do for you?”
It is rare, in our intercessions when we gather, to hear someone pray for what he or she needs. We pray for peace in the world, healing for people near and far, and for the planet. We give thanks, but we rarely ask anything for ourselves.
Why is that? Do we fear what people will think if we ask?
Is it because we think if we don’t ask, we can hide the depth of our need--our desperation?
Is the vulnerability to much to ask?
Or do we simply not know what we need, really?
I confess I do not know the answer, except to say I don’t pray out loud for what I need—with you—either.
It is curious.
We worship a tremendously generous God. We follow a ceaselessly compassionate Jesus, and yet we are shy about speaking out about what we need from Christ with each other.
We hear, often, “Ask and it shall be given you,” yet we are reticent in our asking.
I wonder what would happen in me, in us, in the world about us if we were willing to be as naked in our need as Bartimaeus? I wonder what would happen if we were to take a page out of his book, and cry out, unabashedly, for Jesus to mercify us?
The Anglican in me wants to say quickly that perhaps it does not need to be spoken. Maybe the cry in our hearts is enough. Surely, if that is what we are able to manage, God in her infinite mercy will respond. That is true. I know, though, that I am not going to get off the hook that easily. The question that came as I prayed over this text was “What would happen if we cried out our need?”
We would be seen. Hallelujah? Oh no? Probably a little of both. There would probably be both relief and mortification.
I suggest that seeing and being seen in our need is a way to throw off our cloaks like Bartimaeus and come face to face with Christ in each other. Seeing and being seen in our need is a way to shed the illusion that among us there are those who are helpers and those who are helped, as if there were two distinct categories of people.
Each of us has a place in us—deep in, for some; near the surface for others—we each have a place of longing to be asked “What do you want me to do for you?”
Each of us also has the capacity to be Christ to another in that vulnerability.
Not for all, but for some.
When those two meet, there is a moment of heaven on earth—as there was when Jesus walked here, as there is any time people are loving and responsive to need.
Mother Theresa spoke of this when she said:
We all long for heaven, but we have it in our power to be in heaven with Christ at this very moment. But being happy with Him now means:
Loving as he loves
Helping as he helps
Giving as he gives
Serving as he serves
Rescuing as he rescues
Being with him twenty-four hours
Touching him in his distressing disguise.
I would add: being loved, being helped, receiving, being served and yes, even being rescued.
Sometimes we meet Christ in his distressing disguise in others; sometimes in the mirror. Sometimes we don’t see at all.
With Bartimaeus we can ask, straight out, “My teacher, let me see again.”
Let me see my neighbor’s need AND my own. Let me join hands with them to be part of Christ’s healing power in the world on both sides of the equation.
Let me be healed and a healer. We are called to deeply mutual relationship.
When we are willing to have our eyes opened we see, more and more, with the eyes of Christ—the eyes of love. We see ourselves and others more clearly and
it shapes our communities, our churches, our world. As we respond, in love, we ask more and more “what would love do!?”
Love lets its eyes open to see need: the world’s and our own.
Love revels in all being able to partake of the abundance of creation.
Love creates right relationship between peoples of all stripes, fostering freedom to live—out loud!
Love gives birth to justice.
Love celebrates the best of what it is to be human.
We can be part of the renewal of this kind of seeing and loving in the world: in our families, in our communities, in our churches and in our workplaces—and beyond.
I want to take this far for us. As the elections draw near, I wonder what it would be like if our country cried out its need, instead of being insistent on its strength and power, its right-eousness.
Instead, I read in the news this week that UN observers of our electoral process have been threatened with arrest if they come to close to the polls in one of our states. My first response was shock: I had not known that the UN observers have been present at some of our elections since 2002. I am distressed, but not shocked that they aim to be here. It does not take a particular political leaning to see that our political system has huge cracks in it. We are in trouble.
I wonder what it would be like if this news was taken as a wakeup call for us—an international mirror—instead of a threat or an insult.
I wonder what it would be like if we, as a people, were to realize and admit our need. I wonder what it would take for us to cry an honest prayer for help. I hope we are getting close, but I fear we are not ready to be mirrored by those who can see us more clearly than we can sometimes see ourselves. We have not yet asked to see again. Instead, we plow along. In our names, our nation continues its warring ways. Our manner of responding to violence is often more violence. Our consumption-based economy crashes in on itself and we experience the impact of grave ills that give birth to strife and destruction here and abroad.
Is this all we are? No—not by a long shot. We bring many gifts and blessings to the world’s table. Our faults and dis-ease are decidedly not all we are, any more than Bartimaeus was only a “blind man.” But unless we take the log out of our own eye we dare not try to help anyone else with the splinter in theirs.
My hope is that soon we will see. Soon we will know how to take our place as one nation, among others, that has a great need to be part of a true global partnership. My prayer is that we will join together to foster relief of suffering throughout the world. Until then, may people of faith—all faiths—pray for peace and concord to come. May we speak the truth of our need for change in love. May we continue to be balm for this wounded and wondrous world by continually asking “what would love do?” and doing it.
Mercify us, Lord Jesus, and let us see again. AMEN.