25 October 2015
In biblical times blindness was very common, as in Africa today, where every village has its blind, some from birth, others from diseases like riverblindness or measles or other causes.
Today medical science has come a long way. We have all kinds of devices to help us see better – bifocal glasses, magnifying glasses, binoculars, microscopes, telescopes, even space telescopes like Hubble, enabling us to see billions of light years across the universe.
There is physical blindness and various stages of spiritual blindness. Those of us with normal sight use the following terms every day: “He turned a blind eye on the situation”; “he was blind to our request”; “It was a shortsighted decision”; “He had great foresight”; “Suddenly I saw things in a new light”. We use these terms frequently and at times may have been shortsighted ourselves and suffering from selective vision.
Now back to Bartimaeus.
Is it possible for a blind man to see better than the sighted? Mark seems to think so in today’s Gospel. Bartimaeus is blind, yet seems to have a stronger faith than the disciples. In Mk. 8:18 Christ says to his disciples, “do you not have eyes, but fail to see”. (Mk. 8:18) On this journey, before Jericho, and on the road to Jerusalem in this same chapter 10, Christ has been sharing his thoughts with his disciples about his mission, his suffering and his death. Through it all, the disciples seem blind. Their response includes a rebuke from one of them, telling Christ he got it all wrong. There was also a debate among them as to who should be the greatest. (Mk. 9:34) And now, just up the road from Jericho, on this very journey, there was an attempt by two of them to bag the top two jobs for themselves. (Mk. 10:35-45)
Now a blind man, Bartimaeus, calls out from the side of the road. Without doubt or hesitation he calls Christ “Son of David”, a Messianic term. This blind man seems to have a stronger faith than the disciples. The Spirit of God gives him “an insight” that the sighted lacked.
He is put down by the disciples and told to shut up. The disciples are deciding who sees Jesus and who doesn’t. Bartimaeus refuses to shut up and calls out to Christ, over the heads of the disciples. His spiritual insight, strong faith and perseverance pays off, and Christ does not disappoint him.
Christ stops and says, “Call him here.” (Mk. 10:49) He asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you? (Mk. 10:51) “Master, I want to see again.” ‘Jesus said to him, “Go your way, your faith has saved you.” ‘Immediately he received his sight and followed him along the road.’ (Mk. 10:52)
Scripture scholars tell us that “to follow him along the road” or “on the Way” means Bartimaeus became a disciple and a follower of Christ. That is why, writing later, Mark, not only knows his name, but also the name of his father, Timeus, and hold up Bartimaeus as a model of faith to the early Church.
In today’s Gospel Christ is asking each of us, “what do you want me to do for you? Let us answer, with the words of Bartimaeus, “Lord, let me see again.” And may be, we could give our spiritual glasses a wipe or two today.
May the good Lord remove the spiritual cataracts from our eyes. With the eyes of faith may we see things in a new light. May we see the writings of God in the pages of our daily lives.
“Lord, let me see again.” Let me follow Bartimaeus along the road, the road of life, the road on our journey home, to your house and to our house. Lord, give us all a safe journey. Amen.
– Bishop Tim Carroll SMA