Pope Francis led the clergy, seminarians and religious of Bolivia in a three-point reflection on Mark’s account of the beggar Bartimaeus, warning them against turning away from the needs of their neighbors with the excuse that they are busy following Christ.
The Pope is on his second full day in Bolivia, having arrived Wednesday to the capital, La Paz, for a few-hour visit before heading to Santa Cruz, the country’s most populous city.
After a public Mass this morning, he met this afternoon with thousands of men and women religious and clergy.
The Holy Father largely followed his prepared text to reflect on the Gospel passage, speaking about the cry of the beggar and the reaction of the disciples.
“It is as if the Evangelist wanted to show us the effect which Bartimaeus’ cry had on people’s lives, on the lives of Jesus’ followers,” he said. “How did they react when faced with the suffering of that man on the side of the road, wallowing in his misery.
“There were three responses to the cry of the blind man. We can describe them with three phrases taken from the Gospel: They passed by, they told him to be quiet, and they told him to take heart and get up.”
The Bishop of Rome went on consider each of these reactions, first cautioning against “passing by” the needs of our neighbor with the pretext that we are following after Christ.
“You may say to me,” the Pope said, “‘But Father, those people in the Gospel were busy listening to the words of the Master. They were intent on him.’ I think that this is one of the most challenging things about Christian spirituality. The Evangelist John tells us, ‘How can you love God, whom you do not see, if you do not love your brother whom you do see?’ (1 Jn 4:20). One of the great temptations we encounter along the way is to separate these two things, which belong together. We need to be aware of this. The way we listen to God the Father is how we should listen to his faithful people.”
The second reaction to Bartimaeus was trying to silence him, the Pontiff observed.
“They told him to be quiet. [This response] recognizes that he or she is there, but reacts simply by scolding. It is the attitude of some leaders of God’s people; they continually scold others, hurl reproaches at them, tell them to be quiet,” he said. The Holy Father departed from his prepared remarks to caution against being the type of Church leader who is always wagging his finger in reprimand.
Finally, the third response is “not so much a direct response to the cry of Bartimaeus as an echo, or a reflection, of the way Jesus himself responded to the pleading of the blind beggar. In those who told him to take heart and get up, the beggar’s cry issued in a word, an invitation, a new and changed way of responding to God’s holy People,” the Pope said.
Francis added that this way of responding to others’ needs is the way that God has dealt with us.
“This is the logic of discipleship, it is what the Holy Spirit does with us and in us,” he said. “We are witnesses of this. One day Jesus saw us on the side of the road, wallowing in our own pain and misery. He did not close his ear to our cries. He stopped, drew near and asked what he could do for us. And thanks to many witnesses, who told us, “Take heart; get up”, gradually we experienced this merciful love, this transforming love, which enabled us to see the light. We are witnesses not of an ideology, of a recipe, of a particular theology. We are witnesses to the healing and merciful love of Jesus.”
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