November 6, 2009


We dare not take God’s gifts to us for granted

In the Gospel according to Mark (Mk 10:46-52), Jesus says to Bartimaeus, a blind man, “What do you want me to do for you? Bartimaeus answers, “Master, I want to see.”

Sight, like everything else we possess, is a gift from God. We don’t earn it or deserve it. We receive it.

Most of us receive the gift of sight at the same time that we receive the gift of life.

It’s like the premium package that comes with a new car: automatic transmission, power steering, brakes and door locks, an audio system with CD changer and more.

The package most of us were born with included the gifts of sight and hearing and speech—and many other natural gifts that we take for granted every day.

Perhaps Bartimaeus didn’t receive the gift of sight when he was born. Or he may have lost his sight in childhood or as a young adult.

As a result of that loss, and whatever other personal troubles he experienced growing up, his lot in life was to sit by the roadside begging.

Then he encountered Jesus. Mark’s Gospel says that he heard that it was Jesus. There was nothing wrong with his hearing. In fact, like many sightless people, he probably had especially good hearing. So he cried out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me” (Mk 10:47).

The people around him told him to be quiet. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me” (Mk 10:48). Jesus heard him and told the disciples to “call him” (Mk 10:49).

So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up; Jesus is calling you” (Mk10:49). At which point the blind man jumped up, threw off his coat and ran to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do?” Jesus says (Mk 10:51). I want the gift of sight, Bartimaeus answers. “Go your way; your faith has saved you, Jesus tells him (Mk 10:52). Immediately, he received his sight and followed him on the way.

No more roadside begging for Bartimaeus. He followed Jesus on the way. That means he became a disciple, a follower of Jesus, and “the way” is the disciple’s path, the way of the Cross, the road that all of us who seek to follow Jesus must take—each in our own way.

When Bartimaeus received the gift of sight and decided to follow Jesus “on the way,” he became a Christian steward—one who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them generously with others and returns them to the Lord with increase. These are the characteristics of a Christian steward that are described in the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter, “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.”

What does the experience of Bartimaeus teach us today? If we have received a gift from God—or many, many gifts from God—it’s our responsibility to say thank you. And to take good care of our gifts. And to share them generously with other people.

The story of Bartimaeus also reminds us that the Church is a gift that no one “deserves” or “earned” or is “entitled to.”

We received this archdiocese from God and from all the people who worked so hard during the past 175 years to build this local Church and all its parishes, schools and institutions with all the wonderful facilities, staffs and programs that are now available to the people of central and southern Indiana.

Catholics in this archdiocese are generous. Many participate actively in the ministries and community life of our Church. Many serve the needs of others within their parishes and far beyond individual parish boundaries.

Many support the archdiocese’s annual appeal, “Christ Our Hope: Compassion and Community.” And a growing number of adults, youth and children now see themselves as faithful stewards of the gifts God has given us.

The story of Bartimaeus reminds us that we dare not take any of God’s gifts for granted. If we want our parishes to be vibrant communities of faith, we must participate in our Church’s mission.

If we want our children and youth to receive an outstanding Catholic education, we must support our parish formation programs and our schools. If we want good pastors and beautiful liturgy and the kind of ministries that can only be found in a dynamic community of faith, we must pray for vocations and encourage talented young people to respond generously to God’s call.

Above all, we must continue to be good and faithful stewards of all God’s gifts—spiritual and material.

All it takes to be a good steward is the same courage that Bartimaeus showed when he threw off his coat and ran blindly to Jesus.

And when the Lord asks us, “What do you want me to do for you?” Our response should be: Help us to see how blessed we are! Then Jesus will say to each of us: Go your way; your faith has saved you.

And it will be our turn to follow Jesus on the way.

—Daniel Conway

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