I recently watched a computer-animated fantasy movie entitled Wish Dragon. It is the story of a boy who finds a tea pot containing a dragon which is now able to grant him three wishes. Sounds familiar? It is a reinterpretation of the classic, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp. The thought of how wonderful it would be to have a “dragon” that can grant wishes would surely cross the mind of anyone who watches this movie – well, I did.
We have something similar that relates to the Gospel this Sunday. Take a moment to imagine as to what you would say if Jesus posed this same question which He asked the blind man to you: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Wow! It would be like striking lottery – a genie in the bottle. I am sure all of us would have a list of wishes ready to present to Jesus.
Our Gospel today is centred around a blind beggar named Bartimaeus who possibly sat on the side of the road and hoped that people who passed by would feel sorry for him and give him money. Though he was unaware that Jesus was going to come his way, his ears told him that it wasn’t any ordinary day as he could sense that there was a large crowd gathering and probably heard the name “Jesus”.
When he realised that Jesus was the reason for the crowd, he became excited. He had heard the stories of what wonders Jesus had performed. Maybe Jesus would do something wonderful for him. “Jesus,” he called out, “Son of David, have pity on me.” In doing this, Bartimaeus was not only expecting a healing from Jesus but courageously confesses his faith in who Jesus is. Despite trying to be silenced, he shouted all the louder. He then heard the words he has been longing to hear, “Go, your faith has saved you,” – he got back his sight, his wish fulfilled.
Today as Church, we celebrate World Mission Day and the Gospel offers us Bartimaeus as an example of what is means to be a “missionary”. Many of us tend to think of being a missionary as leaving home, going to a distant land, suffering hardships for the sake of the Gospel. Perhaps this is due to the fact that our early encounters of missionaries were those who came to our shores from distant territories.
The theme for World Mission Day this year comes from Acts 4:20: We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard. These words offer us a new vision of what being on mission means. When Bartimaeus received his sight, instead of going away, he stayed and followed Jesus with the rest of the crowd – he became a disciple. What is interesting is that even though his vision was impaired, he had the eyes of faith and acted on his faith by proclaiming Jesus as the Son of David.
Nothing is said about Bartimaeus after this encounter with Jesus but we can confidently assume that he went about telling people of his experience with Jesus and how his sight was restored – he spoke to others of his faith experience. This is what it means to be a missionary. Not all of us may be called to explain the faith or the scriptures to others. But, by virtue of our baptism, we are all called to share our faith experiences, even the ordinary ones.
Many of us are shy and perhaps maybe even afraid to share with others our “God moments”. Not everyone has a “transfiguration” moment but we encounter God more in the ordinary than the extraordinary. There are many things that we are more willing to talk about without feeling awkward such as politics, sports, fashion, and others. However, why do we shy away from sharing with another the God in me?
As the theme for World Mission Day this year reminds us, we are only called to speak that which we have ‘seen and heard’ in our own lives – not about the lives and experiences of others. The essence of being a missionary is not founded on leaving home, but the freedom to share how God has been gracious to each one of us. None of us can say we have had no God-experience because in the words of St Teresa of Avila, “God longs to shower us with signs of his love and affection!”
When we share these moments of God’s love and affection with others, we can certainly open a person’s heart to the wonder of God’s mighty love and lead that person to a new relationship with God. World Mission Day reminds us, let’s not just proclaim Jesus in worship but share our faith experiences and help others to experience this living God who is alive in each of us.
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (24 Oct 2021)