Bartimaeus the Steward

In response to my email of October 11th, I heard back from several of you who shared with me some of the ways your parish is paying attention to the small details in order to be more hospitable.  Thank you! 

Here are a couple:

  • Last year we did a hoe down chili cook-off in January. It was nice to have a bit of fun in January, seems like a blank space in the calendar. 
  • The biggest impact OLBH has had on welcoming families has been to stock the nursery with various sizes of diapers and wipes and pull ups for the times you forget or run out of something while here. It is very inexpensive – we bought four small diaper packages a year ago and are just now running out – but it makes parents feel welcome.

I am sure there are many ways parishioners around the Diocese are finding simple but meaningful ways to extend hospitality.  It is a joy to hear of some of them.

This past Friday I returned from a 12-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  The whole trip was filled with grace and blessings and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go.  The pilgrimage was led by Fr. Jacques Phillippe and Sr. Magdalit Bolduc from the Community of the Beatitudes.  This morning I was thinking about something Fr. Phillippe said to us on the evening of our arrival.  He said that often times we believe that we really cannot change or be changed. “That is just the way I am”, we say to ourselves.  Fr. Phillippe said that attitude, although quite common among Christians, speaks of a lack of Christian hope.  We lack the virtue of hope in the power and work of God’s grace in our lives if we believe that we cannot change.

Both unconsciously and consciously I think we often live and act out of this belief, both in how we think about ourselves personally, but also about how we think about the institutions we are a part of, whether it be the workplace, school, or church.  We are dissatisfied and unhappy about the status quo, but feel a sense of hopelessness about it ever changing.  On the other hand, we also experience as Americans this almost blind belief that if something is new it must also be good and we relentlessly pursue the next best thing; in technology, in diets, in entertainment; in educational and parenting practices, in church programs. Interesting how we hold these seemingly contradictory extremes simultaneously in our daily lives; on the one hand thinking things will never change while at the same time, relentlessly searching for and trying new things, throwing out the old and moving from one new novelty to the next.  All the while remaining restless.

It is only in actively seeking Christian maturity and Christian hope that we can navigate between the tendency to move back and forth from these two extremes.  The mature disciple, like Mary, is open and docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and therefore, not rigid; but open to change.  At the same time, the mature disciple is rooted firmly in the stable rock of Faith; is growing in prudence and right judgment and so is not easily blown one direction and then another by quickly changing fads.

Both as individuals and as church communities, it is important to be watchful and attentive to staying within this balance.  On the one hand, we must hold firmly to the belief expressed in the Book of Revelation, “See I make all things new” (21:5), firmly rooting ourselves in Hope which frees us to be open to the promptings and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  At the same time, the heritage of the Church carries with it the wisdom of the ages and we must guard against absorbing a cultural disdain for anything “old” and a presumption that we are wiser than those who have gone before us.  As we talk about and discern how to move from “maintenance” to “mission” (p. i, Through Him, With Him and In Him), as we argue with one another about whether or not the church is changing too much or not enough, as we debate about this new program or that or about whether to abandon “programs” all together,  let us continue to encourage one another to do so always with fervent prayer and commitment to growth in virtue.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Bartimaeus provides us with just such encouragement.  He cries out to the Lord with great faith and with great persistence – a model for prayer.  In a gesture of great detachment, he throws his cloak (his only security in his current state of life) to come to the Lord.  Honestly sharing his desire with the Lord, he is healed and “followed him on the way” – literally, “followed in His footsteps”.  Bartimaeus is a steward and a disciple, a man of fervent, persistent, and honest prayer who trusts completely in the Lord and follows in His footsteps.  Let us all strive to do likewise.

 

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