Friday, October 16, 2009
“Jesus said to Bartimaeus, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘Teacher, let me see again.’” (Mark 10:51)
“SOUL-SURFING” – October 25, 2009
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
“According to a British report, a certain private school in Victoria, British Columbia, recently was faced with a unique problem. A number of 12th grade girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips to the mirror leaving dozens of little lip prints. Every night, the custodian would remove them, and the next day the girls would put them back. Finally the principal decided that something had to be done. She called all the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the custodian. She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every night. To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, she asked the custodian to show the girls how much effort was required. He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet and cleaned the mirror with it. Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.” (From “Bright Ideas,” Vol. 6, Issue 3)
A lesson taught with such simplicity and creativity: that principal and her custodian are to be commended for their cleverness. No ranting and raving; no threats to ban the wearing of lipstick in school; not even a raised voice. Oh, that life’s more important lessons could be taught so easily! Reminds me of a recently spotted bumper sticker: “Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.” Indeed, education is a holy endeavor, for its goal is to prepare young people, through the development of their bodies, minds and souls, to make a positive difference in the world. Education is a holy endeavor as it guides young people to learn what truly counts.
A bitter truth, though, is that we live in a world that glorifies so many things that don’t count for much at all. Our culture too easily puts on pedestals those who have nothing of lasting value to offer young people hungering for role models to emulate. Yes, daily does it seem to get more difficult to identify someone to look up to. Indeed, we’ve all succumbed to a kind of blindness as we look for the real stars, heroes and saints in our midst.
The gospel passage we hear today offers us such a role model: a star, a hero, even a saint, if you will. It’s Bartimaeus, the blind beggar. Here’s a pitiable man who knew he was blind and also knew who it was who could cure him of his blindness. Unlike some of us who aren’t even aware that we can’t see what matters most, Bartimaeus was painfully aware of his condition. And he knew it was Jesus who could open his eyes. “Jesus said to Bartimaeus, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘Teacher, let me see again.’” (Mark 10:51) And, of course, Jesus does heal him.
In our own day, this same miracle is worked again whenever we confess that our hearts and minds are painfully unfocused. This same miracle of sight restored occurs again whenever we bring to Jesus our desire for true insight. This same miracle occurs again whenever the hand of God touches our blindness. And more often than not, God uses very human means to work this continuing miracle. Like the hands of Amanda. Like what the hands of Amanda wrote in her journal. A mid-September article in our local newspaper tells the story:
“Some nights, Jacqueline Perrotta hears the bed creak in the next room and knows it's her husband, Lou. He's found a place on the Tinkerbell bedspread, next to the community of stuffed animals that has taken up residence there since the couple's daughter, 16-year-old Amanda Perrotta, died last November after a long, bold fight with Mitochondrial Depletion Syndrome.
“And then he opens it -- Amanda's journal -- bright pink and covered in cartoony flowers. Amanda's voice, quiet and raspy toward the end, speaks through the tidy cursive tucked inside. Questions never discussed in life would be answered in death.
“Lou Perrotta used to worry she was dwelling on her disease when he'd see Amanda writing in the journal, which she started a few months before she died. Jacqueline and Lou never considered reading it back then, but she'd left a note saying it would be nice to have it published as a book someday that could help other ill kids.
[Amanda wrote] “My mom asked me if I would ever want to [be on a respirator]. I answered, ‘Please let me be on one if they say I'll get better. If they say I won't get any better, please let me have the pleasure of finally getting to meet God.’
“Jacqueline couldn't read the journal until a few weeks ago. [Before then] Lou would share snippets of it with her when she was up to hearing them. She likes the part in which Amanda talks about how God puts you on the right path, and he'll never give you more obstacles than you can handle, and especially loves the section where she says, ‘I'm pretty sure that God picked us children with illnesses because we're the ones who are going to change the world with our positive attitudes.’" (Albany, NY, Times-Union, September 12, 2009)
Indeed, teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best. No doubt, Jacqueline and Lou did an excellent job with their daughter. But when the heavy challenge of her life-threatening illness hit, it was Amanda who took on the role of teacher. “Please let me have the pleasure of finally getting to meet God,” she wrote in her journal. And, “I'm pretty sure that God picked us children with illnesses because we're the ones who are going to change the world with our positive attitudes."
While daily it seems more difficult to identify stars, heroes and saints, brightly does Bartimaeus shine just for knowing he was blind; brightly does Amanda shine for knowing what truly counts. And most brightly shines Jesus who opened their eyes and offers to do the same for us.
« Back To Archives