This week the Church presents as the first scripture reading for daily Mass excerpts from the Old Testament Book of Sirach.
The Book of Sirach is one of the last books of the Bible to be written and it seems to represent a compilation of Israelite wisdom about the meaning and purpose of human existence. The God of Israel has created the world and given the gift of life to humanity- but what is our place in God’s creation, what constitutes a good life, toward what goals or ends should human beings aspire to? The Wisdom of Sirach begs the answers to questions like these.
Today’s reading from the Book of Sirach praises and recounts the mighty deeds of the God of Israel. This hymn of praise is signaling something of great importance to us about a vision of life informed by the Bible. The meaning and purpose of human existence can only be fully appreciated in relation to the revelation of God, without that revelation, we might have some sense of life’s meaning and purpose, but that sense will be incomplete. This revelation does not simply happen in the manner described so many times in the Bible, in which God intervenes in mysterious ways in human history, but also through creation itself.
The Creator signals his existence in his creation and signals to that the Creator wants his creatures to know him.
The Biblical vision insists that God discloses to us that we have been created by God and for God, and therefore, as St. Augustine opined, “our hearts are restless until the rest in thee”.
The plaintive cry of Bartimaeus in Christ’s Gospel “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me” should be our own cry as well. In fact, our relationship with Jesus Christ has as the condition for its possibility a humble disposition that acknowledges our own insufficiency and worthiness and our willingness to receive from Christ gifts that we cannot achieve or earn for ourselves.
God in Christ reveals himself to the world as Savior, which means our souls are sin-sick and need to be healed. God in Christ reveals himself to the world as Redeemer, which means we languish in a prison of desires, entrapped by the guilt and regret of what we have done and failed to do.
It is from this bondage that Christ liberates us.
Bartimaeus was delivered from physical blindness, but for many, it is spiritual blindness that devastates and debilitates. This spiritual blindness narrows one’s vision of life to immediate needs and self-centered concerns. This imposes a kind of myopia on the soul and our field of vision diminishes. As this myopia takes hold of the soul, there is a steady descent into darkness, for having habituated oneself to a narrow, self-centered vision of life, the soul soon can see nothing else but its own self-centered needs.
The soul in the thrall of this blindness gropes endlessly for meaning and purpose, yet in its blindness grasps at all the wrong things and the darkness deepens.
Christ reveals on the cross that he is willing to extend his divine presence into this darkness. In the darkness he calls out to us and seeing us in our misery he offers us his light to dispel the dark.
Hearing the sound of his voice in the dark will we cry out to him as Bartimaeus did?
Or will we prefer the darkness to his light?