28 October 2012
A man died and in his will he donated his eyes to his wife. Due to modern medicine and technology she was able to see for the first time at the age of 64. Her first words on being able to see apart from gratitude to God and to her late husband were: ‘incredible, but how can all you people who have always seen be so calm and seem so unaffected by all the beauty that surrounds you. Can’t you see the beauty in the faces of all others, be amazed at the different colours; look at the different shapes of all the trees, everything!’ Isn’t it probably true of most of us? – we seem to take it all for granted.
In the gospel today Jesus heals the blind man Bartimaeus and gives him back his sight. Bartimaeus is not only cut off from the beauty of the world; he is also cut off from other people. Some people believe that his blindness is due to his sin or the sin of his parents, so they think that he is also cut off from God.
It was as Jesus was about to leave the historical city of Jericho that the healing takes place. Jesus is now only 15 miles from Jerusalem where he will die shortly because of the blindness of the Jewish religious leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees. Bartimaeus sees what these others are unable to perceive. Very often the one who acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah come from the insignificant people of society, from those at the roadside; the marginalised, from people some try to silence.
Many of the readings of recent Sundays deal with blind people, people who look at life from their viewpoint only, so they remain totally blind to other possibilities. The eyes of the Pharisees are totally glued to the Law and the Commandments but seem blind to matters of the heart. The Rich Young man is blinded by his wealth and fails to see what Jesus is offering him. The disciples led by Peter are not much better. Their eyes are on the best places and they fail to see what Jesus is teaching them. So now today Mark tells us about Bartimaeus who was begging by the side of the road. So who really are the blind people? Who are those who see? Maybe those including ourselves who consider tranquillity and security the highest values and want to avoid all risks and to cling desperately to the old and familiar. Do I see or has Jesus still to open my eyes. Do I ask him to do this? Maybe I am afraid to.
Even though I may see physically, is it possible that I am blind spiritually, emotionally or psychologically? Physical blindness is not necessarily the worst kind. But the Good News of today’s gospel is that Jesus can do for us what he did for Bartimaeus if we have faith. Jesus said to Bartimaeus: ‘your faith has saved you’. But first of all we may need to ask Jesus to show us, if we really want this, to show us where we are blind and give us the healing. But if it is just to indulge ourselves maybe he won’t. Will we be prepared like Bartimaeus to follow Jesus along the road behind him – a road that could lead to suffering too?
So in the story we see Bartimaeus at the side of the road. He is not yet a follower of Jesus. He is blind so who told him it was Jesus? Who told you, me? Have I told anyone? Some people try to shut him up and prevent him from going to Jesus and so follow him. Have we had this experience? Or in any way by word or example done it to others. Above all, in the story we have Jesus. The crowd is all around him, shouting, pushing. Yet look at the sensitivity of Jesus who in spite of all this hears Bartimaeus shouting after him, maybe the only chance Bartimaeus will ever have. So Jesus calls him over. Others relay the invitation of Jesus, so again Jesus uses people to pass on his invitation today too. The man doesn’t delay but jumps up even throwing aside his cloak as it might hinder him. And when he reaches Jesus he is asked by Jesus ‘what do you want me to do for you?’ We might think, ‘Come on Jesus, the man is blind’. But no, that is not our God. He doesn’t force what might be our obvious needs on us against our will. Again the sensitivity and delicacy of Jesus. So he responds to the request of Bartimaeus because he knows that his faith leads him to trust that Jesus can heal him. God never forcefully enters into our lives but waits to be invited. Don’t you as parents and teachers have the same experience? Sometimes you know what is best for your children but you allow them the freedom necessary even to refuse and make mistakes.
Finally Bartimaeus had to risk. As a beggar he was sure of a certain daily income. He had his place in the society of his time among his family, friends and fellow beggars. Now in following Jesus he takes the great risk of leaving that behind to follow Jesus not knowing where it might lead or what will happen to him. But he considers it worth the risk. Would you or I?
“Lord Jesus, we praise and thank you for the many gifts you give us, including the gift of sight. Open our eyes to all the areas of our lives where we are blind and unfree. Give us the Holy Spirit to take the risk of letting go of all that prevents us from following you more closely and having the fullness of life, beginning even now. Amen”
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA