A few years back a basketball player by the name of Charles Barkley got in a lot of trouble when he said he was not a "role model." He was trying to say that basketball players like him should not be role models but true role models for children should be found in their parents. Well, he got in a lot of trouble because the reality was that children do look up to their sports heros and so he was a role model - like it or not.
I actually have a lot of sympathy for him - sometimes I don't want to be a role model either. As a Dad, it's tiring knowing that little eyes are on you all the time. Did Dad just pass gas and not say "excuse me?" Is Dad speeding again? Dad, that man holding the sign says he needs money, can we give him some? Dad? DAD? DADDY?!!!
Sometimes, I just want to scream!
I have found the same thing happens when you stand up and declare that you are a Catholic. Automatically, you are setting yourself apart from this world. You are not supposed to lie, or cheat, or steal, or be sinful. The rest of the world may say it is "dog eat dog" or "tough guys finish first" but you can't be a good Catholic and do these things. People are watching and your actions speak louder than your words. Frankly, sometimes it is a real pain - it is tough trying to be good all the time. Sometimes when I am mad, I would just love to show the guy a hand sign that I am sure he would understand!
Our reading this week is a lot like that. It is from Mark 10: 46 - 52.
46 And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimae'us, a blind beggar, the son of Timae'us, was sitting by the roadside.
47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
49 And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; rise, he is calling you."
Bartimae'us is a lot like us. When we declare that we are followers of Christ. Suddenly there are all sorts of folks that rebuke us. Not always directly but also in subtle ways. Even our friends and family sometimes. "Why do you have to be such a goodie two shoes? Oh you Catholics see abortion in such black and white terms. Hey, do what you want, but don't judge me. Come on it's just a party - everyone else does it..."
Then we have to decide - are we going to follow Jesus or are we going to follow the crowd? Are we going to let the world silence us by silencing our actions?
For Bartimae'us there was no choice. He was desperate. His life as a blind beggar was already written. His only hope was Jesus to have mercy on him. So he ignored the crowd yelling at him to be silent and cried out all the louder for Jesus - "Son of David, have mercy on me!" I have heard desperate voices and I know what his voice must have sounded like over the shouts of the angry crowd. The higher pitch, slightly quivering, bordering on hysteria. The cry of the desperate who knows that his only hope was passing him by.
And then one of those pivotal moments in our wold happened. Jesus, surrounded by his disciples and a multitude of people all clamoring for his attention, heard that blind beggar. That untouchable that occupied the lowest rung of society. That loudmouth that everyone was trying to silence.
And, unbelievably, Jesus stopped.
And he called to him.
And the Savior of the World asked this blind beggar,
51 And Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" And the blind man said to him, "Master, let me receive my sight."
52 And Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
For those of us that believe, what choice do we really have? To be shown the truth, to know God's love and mercy, how can we turn away and follow the crowd instead of Christ?
But we do have a choice and we know those that have turned away. The question is will we also turn away?
Like Bartimae'us, Jesus has revealed himself to us and then told us to "Go our way." God could order us but his love is not like that. His love is freely given and we choose our own way.
And like Bartimae'us - no longer blind, no longer a begger, I hope that we also follow Christ on the way.
To accept God and to be a disciple of Christ means to carry our cross and follow him. We must leave our old selves behind and take on our new identities as disciples. And by our actions show the world that there is a better way. There is a truth and a love that this world cannot offer but can only be found in God.
The strongest testimony that we can make for the existence of God is to live our lives in the imitation of Christ. To humbly love each other and to feed his sheep. We may not like being role models but we are. We must embrace this role.
We may tire sometimes "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Let us walk together and not be faint.