Reflection for Sunday – October 24, 2021
Readings: Jeremiah 31: 7-9; Hebrews 5: 1-6; Mark 10: 46-52
Preacher: Brigit Hurley
In today’s Gospel we see a model for seeking justice and change in the world. As the Rochester community marks the 2021 Children’s Sabbath this month with prayer and advocacy for children struggling with mental and social-emotional needs, we would do well to follow Bartimaeus’ example: Be persistent. Be loud. Speak your need.
Be persistent. It appears that Bartimaeus had been begging for years. We are brought in at the tail end of this story, just as we are when we read a news headline about a big change in public policy. Child abuse didn’t become illegal until the 1960s. Child labor was banned in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 34 years after the National Child Labor Committee was formed to abolish it. The New York State Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act became law in 2020, 20 years after it was first introduced in the New York State Legislature. In order to pass laws and policies that create a better world for children, we have to take the long view and not be discouraged in our efforts.
Bishop Ken Untener’s famous prayer reminds us, “We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”
Be loud. Don’t be afraid to make the crowd uncomfortable, as Bartimaeus did. Make “good trouble,” as the late Rep John Lewis advised us—”Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year; it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Speak your need. Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” How might we answer that question today? The needs of the world are overwhelming and complex. Being specific sets our intention and directs our actions. Consider:
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among children and adolescents, ages 10-17, in the United States and suicide rates have increased in the age group over the past 20 years.
- The rate of suicide among Black children under age 13 has been increasing over the last decade and is two times higher than among white children.
- As the pandemic continues, mental health issues are worsening and compounding among young people. A potential delay of 2-4 years is often observed between the traumatic event and the development of a mental health disorder, meaning that while we may be seeing some of the initial effects of the pandemic, we will continue to see more over the next 2-4 years.
Indeed, youth are speaking about their deep depression and anxieties:
- “I felt like I was just a waste of space. I was in so much pain.”
- “I don’t want to be in this world any more.”
These feelings are not new. In 2019, 38 percent of Monroe County youth reported that they “have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions because of mental, or emotional challenges,” and one-third said that they, “Felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row that they stopped doing their usual activities, in the past year.”
Let us not tire in our work to build a world that is safe and nurturing for children—together we must be persistent, be loud and speak to their needs! Take heart from the words spoken by Rep. John Lewis shortly before he died: “When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something. To do something. Our children and their children will ask us, ‘What did you do? What did you say?’ . . . We have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.”
Remember what was said to Bartimaeus once Jesus asked for him – “Take courage, get up, Jesus is calling you.” Jesus is calling each one of us to be courageous. We pray, “What do you want me to do?” or “Master, I want to see.” And Jesus points out the troubles around us and gives us the ability to see what needs doing, how to do it, when to do it, and why to do it each in our unique way as followers of Jesus.
If you’re not sure what you can do today, consider joining congregations throughout Monroe County who are responding to children’s struggles by signing a petition requesting more mental health resources for Rochester students. The petition is available in English and Spanish at The Children’s Agenda’s website, www.thechildrensagenda.org.