It goes without saying that we are experiencing in our beloved country a level of polarization that has reached near epidemic proportions. This past week the daily news was riveted at the attempted assassination of two former Presidents and a number of high-profile government officials and their supporters at the hands of a lone ideologically crazed national terrorist. As if that was not enough to exacerbate the political tensions, this past Saturday in a Pittsburgh synagogue, at least 10 people were shot and killed in another heartless incident of random shooting, undoubtedly fueled by the cancerous metastasizing of hatred of ‘the other’ that is tragically defining our country.
Social and political commentators have said that not since the Civil War has our country experienced such strident division. Sadly, the office of President that was once viewed as unifying and healing such divisions, has now become the enabler of not only incivility but a prevailing ‘permission’ to demonize what used to be called, the ‘loyal opposition’ as well as anyone perceived as ‘the other.’ Political discourse has devolved into adolescent name-calling and truth has been uprooted from objectivity and become subservient to the pragmatic and narcissistic needs and wants of the Commander in Chief and his sycophants.
It is into this sad and divisive situation that the Word of God comes to us to provide not only solace, but more importantly a sober warning as we near the end of our liturgical year.
The ministry of Jesus is so often presented in the Gospels as a ministry of healing. In today’s Gospel narrative taken from St. Mark, the first Gospel to be written, Jesus brings sight to the blind man, Bartimaeus. While we might ponder this miracle story at face value as simply a recollection of a wonderous act of generosity on the part of the Anointed One, there is invariably an underlying timeless metaphor of meaning for all of us as we hear these stories of grace and redemption.
With the advances in modern science and medicine, blindness is no longer the common occurrence that it once was in the ancient world. Yet, we would be fooling ourselves to think that this story is merely a quaint recollection of an isolated act of spontaneous healing on the part of the Savior for a malady that is rarely experienced today.
My friends, we live in a world that in so many respects is experiencing a blindness of the heart. No longer are many, even those holding leadership positions in our Country, listening to the ‘better angels of their nature’ but rather are motivated by blind ambition that surrenders perennial and timeless values to the expediency and self-aggrandizement of the moment.
However, there is a deeper and more pernicious blindness that is tragically raising its ugly head in our land. It is the willful blindness that refuses to see the essential goodness of all humanity and the solidarity that is ours as children of God. This national cancer of a ‘me first’ attitude that refuses to see our essential obligation to be “our brother’s or sister’s keeper” in the human family is trumped by an arrogant isolationism that has forgotten the Gospel imperative, ‘to those to whom much has been given, much is required!”
While countries indeed have both a right and obligation to safeguard the common good of its citizenry as it exercises prudent safeguards of its borders, our national heritage as being a ‘city on a hill’ whose bright light of freedom beckons to all who seek security from physical and economic tyranny is sadly being traded for the cheap grace of blind and self-centered nationalism.
What is needed today are true visionaries who have the courage to see with the eyes of Jesus. And in seeing, are willing to be, once again, that prophetic presence in our world and in our country, speaking the often inconvenient truth of the Lord’s universal and unconditional love for all humanity but especially for the poor, the immigrant, the alienated and the marginalized of society.
When we are courageous enough to take up this call and see the universal solidarity that binds us all to the human family, then we can make our own the beauty and truth of today’s Responsorial Psalm: The Lord has done great things for US, WE are filled with joy!