The annual Syracuse Catholic Women’s Conference was held at the Oncenter on Saturday, October 27. Since its inception nine years ago women from our diocese and surrounding dioceses have gathered to be enriched by the presentations of guest speakers, the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the celebration of the Eucharist. Over 800 women attended this year’s conference. The homily I preached on that occasion is printed below.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked Bartimaeus. I have always liked Bartimaeus. He was a blind beggar. He was very aware of his needs and bold in his attempts to meet them. Even when he is rebuked by the crowd and told to be silent he keeps crying out, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Bartimaeus knew to whom he had to go if his needs were to be met. And best of all, the Gospel for today has a happy ending!
Bartimaeus’ plea does not fall on deaf ears. Jesus stops on His way and asks His disciples to call Bartimaeus over to him. Bartimaeus approached Jesus with haste and enthusiasm. He found his way to Jesus and told him what he needed: “Master I want to see.”
How would you have answered Jesus’ question — “What do you want me to do for you?” Who among us is without needs? Some of our needs touch the very core of our being. And so it was for Bartimaeus. He had a need that only Jesus could satisfy. Do we not also have needs that only Jesus can fulfill?
I think the theme for this 9th Annual Catholic Women’s Conference — Trust in the Truth — expresses one of our most fundamental needs. As I prepared my homily for today my thoughts turned to the words of Jesus, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). Truth is not an abstract idea. It is not a theory or lofty concept. No, truth is a person — a person who “knows our weaknesses and deals patiently with us” as we heard in the Letter to the Hebrews. Truth is a person who fulfills the words of Jeremiah bringing sight to the blind and strength to the lame and those who limp along on the path of salvation. Truth is Jesus Christ — true God and true man. He delivers us, brings us back when we stray, consoles, guides, and leads us.
So, your theme Trust in the Truth becomes Trust in Jesus. For many today, trust is difficult. Some have told me that their confidence and love for the Church has been shaken because those in whom they should trust betrayed them. Sadly, this is so. However, many have also told me that although this is a very difficult time they know that ultimately their faith rests in the firm conviction that Jesus is the eternal shepherd who does not abandon His sheep. Jesus is the truth. It is He in whom we place our trust. He will not betray us.
Today I think we all need a dose of Bartimaeus’ faith. His faith impelled him to seek out Jesus. Bartimaeus had an unrelenting conviction that Jesus could rescue him from his affliction. His greatest need was to encounter Jesus. Instinctively, he knew that Jesus could rescue him from his affliction. Bartimaeus grasped who Jesus was. Despite his blindness, he “saw” the royal dimension of Jesus’ identity. He addresses Jesus as the Son of David. Those with physical sight have not yet “seen” who Jesus is. Bartimaeus is blind, yet “sees.”
Faith is not easy to put into practice. The crowds try to silence the blind beggar. He is a nuisance; what can he possibly know? Blind beggars were at the bottom of the social ladder. Certainly, they assume, Jesus could not be interested in Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus, however, knows better and cries out “more loudly.”
Bartimaeus asks for the right thing. He asks for no special privilege as James and John did in last Sunday’s Gospel — a seat at Jesus’ left and right, a share in His power. No, Bartimaeus asks only for open eyes that are able to see Jesus. His insight and courage are rewarded. Bartimeaus is transformed and restored to wholeness. His faith, his sight — which has nothing to do with physical sight — saves Him. His insight and courage are rewarded. He is transformed and restored to wholeness. His trust in Jesus, his conviction that Jesus can satisfy his deepest need, saves him.
The restoration of sight is not the end of the story. Bartimaeus becomes a follower of Jesus. “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.” He follows Jesus, the light who dispels the darkness that envelops all those who do not reach out to meet Jesus and follow Him.
And so we ask as Bartimaeus did, “Master, I want to see.” All of us need to grow daily in our faith, to remove the blind spots that keep us from recognizing who Jesus is. All of us need to embrace Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life.” All of us need to encounter Jesus ever more deeply day by day. Then we too can walk with Him along the way of life and faith, eager to invite others to know and love Him as the one who never tires of making us whole — by bestowing His love and mercy.
My dear women — married, single, members of consecrated life; young, old, and those in between — you have so much that our world needs. Quoting Pope Francis, a society without women would lack the “witness of tenderness, dedication and moral strength” (Cf. Pope Francis, General Audience, January 7, 2015).
Thank you for coming today. It is always a pleasure to be with you. Your annual conference brings together so many women from across our diocese and beyond. Your presence is a testimony to the Gospel. You pass on the seed of faith. You give us the example of steadfast trust and confidence in Jesus. You teach us the deepest meaning of religious practice and devotion. Know of my deep gratitude for who you are and for what you do to build up the Church. Please know of my prayerful support for all of you. I ask you to remember me in your prayers.
I hope you leave for your journey home with hearts and minds filled with the words of today’s fine presenters, Nikki Kingsley; Father Shawn Monahan, OMV; and Susan Tassone, who addressed the important areas of trust, love and healing in the arms of Mary, and God’s promise of salvation.
How fitting it is, at the close of the day, to take the experience of this day and bring it to the Eucharist, thanking and praising God for the gift of His son and the grace He earned for us. Here we are nourished by word and Sacrament. Here we celebrate our faith as members of God’s family. And from here we are sent forth to share the good news of salvation.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.