A VOYAGE OF ENCOUNTER: PART 1

[A special thanks to Fr. Greg Adolf, Pastor of St. Andrews parish in Sierra Vista, Arizona, for the inspiration for these blogs on the Gospel of Encounter which flowed out of a day of Recollection that Helen and I took in at our home away from home parish [St John Neumann] at Yuma Arizona on November 30th, 2015.]

Blind BartimaeusIf we have embarked on a spiritual journey in the Christian faith, we need to be conscious of what Fr. Greg Adolf calls the “Gospel of Encounter”. The following points underpin that Encounter:

  1. Life really begins with the Encounter with Jesus Christ. We are either being prepared for that Encounter or we are living in the unfolding experience of that Encounter.
  2. We are prepared by God for that Encounter with questions and unfulfilled longings, which won’t go away- and a deep “discomfort” or “restlessness” which only Jesus Christ can resolve.
  3. God graciously loves us to the end of our own resources, so that we will listen to what he has to say to us. He will not abandon us during this process, but “waits” upon us.
  4. God has a plan for every person’s life, which can only be discovered in a relationship with Him. A guided life results from that relationship.
  5. God will bring us into relationship with others which will confirm our Encounter with Him, so that we can know the joy of fellowship with Him and other believers.

A 12 step program, such as AA, employs as its first 3 steps the following assertions:

  1. I can’t;
  2. God can;
  3. God will if I let Him.

Some of us have a deep rooted problem that we are unable to resolve by ourselves. That problem often has to do with some aspect of our life that creates a road block in our relationships with others. It may be an addiction or character trait or some other impediment to our desire to live a life in harmony with God and with those around us or it could be a preoccupation with material things that cuts God and others out. We know deep down that we are dissatisfied. It is likely that there is a hole in us that only God can fill. When we become desperate enough we turn to God in “real prayer”: a plea for help born out of our desperation and God, who hears the cry of the poor [Psalm 34] responds. God is patient and does not abandon us as we prepare for our Encounter with Him and the healing that only He can bring. My next few posts during this Advent season will focus on Encounters with Jesus which are set out in the Gospels. I’d like to start with Mark’s account of the Encounter experienced by the blind Bartimaeus with Jesus which is recorded in Mark 10: 46-52. Please read the scripture through slowly a couple of times.

A little background might be helpful. Jesus is on His way along the Jericho road to Jerusalem from the Jordan Valley to experience His passion. It’s a distance of about 25 miles. The road is apparently a long winding up-hill trek and it is a route well travelled by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. Bartimaeus, who has been blind since birth, has a spot on this road, which he occupies probably on a daily basis in order to collect coins from travellers for his sustenance. Although Bartimaeus is blind he very likely has a well developed sense of hearing and over the months and perhaps years prior to his Encounter with Jesus has likely heard all about Him from travellers frequenting the Jericho road as they passed by his post on the side of the road. He has heard no doubt that Jesus heals people and that he has healed blind people.  Bartimaeus has most likely been scheming as to how he might arrange an Encounter with Jesus perhaps wondering whether or not he could encourage others to transport him to Jesus. You can therefore imagine his excitement and his determination when he hears from travellers on the road that Jesus is coming his way and is going to pass right by him. Mark tells us in the Gospel account that Bartimaeus wasn`t going to be denied his opportunity to encounter Jesus and kept shouting “Jesus Son of David, have mercy on me“! When he was told by those around him to be quiet, as they considered his shouting a nuisance, he shouted all the louder. Jesus heard him and called him. Bartimaeus threw off his mantle, sprang up and made his way to Jesus. Jesus enquired as to what he wanted Jesus to do for him and Bartimaeus replied- “Master, let me receive my sight!“ Jesus healed him and he followed Jesus on the road.

In throwing off his mantle, Bartimaeus was discarding a piece of clothing that served many purposes. It was a cloak that protected him from the wind, rain and sun. It was laid out beside him, when he was begging, to collect coins thrown at him by passing travellers and it was likely a pillow for his head in the evening. In the Gospel account the throwing off of the mantle symbolizes a discarding of a material “thing“ in exchange for a relationship with Jesus. The healing provided by Jesus was physical but also spiritual for the Gospel account confirms that after his sight was restored, Bartimaeus followed Jesus along the road.

In subsequent posts published during Advent I will explore other Gospel accounts of Encounters experienced by others with Jesus. The next post will focus on Luke’s account of the Encounter between Jesus and the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus with perfumed oil found in Luke 7: 36-50.

 

 

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