Mk 10:46-52 (30th Sunday)
Among the ancient Greek people the runner that won the race was not the man who crossed the line in the shortest time, but the man who crossed it in the least time with his torch still burning. We are so busy with life’s activities that we are in danger of allowing the torch of our spiritual life to become extinguished. It was when Moses paused in his going that he heard the voice of God. Today’s gospel presents a blind man who not only received the light but also kept the light burning brightly for the rest of his life by following Jesus. The minute Jesus restored sight to his eyes and to his spirit, Bartimaeus immediately began to follow Jesus as a sighted, witnessing disciple. Opening the eyes of the blind was prophesied as one of the works of the Messiah: “The eyes of the blind will see” (Is 29:18; see also 32:3). In fact, in the very next scene Jesus is being proclaimed by the crowds as Messiah.
Can you think of the misery of a blind beggar? A blind beggar’s misery is compounded: worse than the sum of the misery of a blind person and of a beggar. He is totally at our mercy, stretching out his hand into the darkness, unable to guess our mood, not knowing if we even see him. Spiritually every believer is that man, most of the time. Faith is dark knowledge. Often we lift up our hands in prayer, and we feel no presence of the Other; we hear neither a promise nor a refusal. That is the time to remember Bartimaeus. He is placed here in the gospel story as an encouragement for us. The Solution for the dark moments of your spiritual life: start calling out, like the beggar, that is, humbly pray Jesus, have mercy on me! (Mk 10:48). And shout all the louder the more they scold you, the more they discourage you, the more you get discouraged: Many people scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder… (Mk 10:48). To call is also to beg: Master, let me see again! (Mk 10:51). Solution: to grow in our faith and beyond our certitude, trust in who loved us, created us and came to redeem us and remain amongst us in the Eucharist. Pope John Paul II said the very same with the example of his life: his long hours of meditation —so many that his Secretary complained that he prayed “too much”— tell us clearly that he who pray changes History.
Let’s watch him. When he heard that Jesus was passing by he began to shout, “Have pity on me!” People told him to shut up, he was making too much noise. But he shouted all the more. “Call him,” Jesus said…. “Cheer up!” they told him. “On your feet, he’s calling you.” Then, the account continues, “throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.” He came, of course, still in the dark. Did you notice that he threw aside his cloak? It was a strange thing for a blind person to do: would he find it again? Blind people have great trouble finding things. The cloak here could have at least two meanings. It could simply mean an exterior tunic that was his upper garment, or it was a large square piece of cloth that the blind man had spread in front of him to collect some coins from the passersby. In any case, his act of throwing off his cloak shows a renunciation (that the rich man was unable to do earlier in Mark 10). The blind man does not need his cloak any more – he goes out to Jesus in symbolic nakedness. The blind man does not need his coins any more – because he is going to be healed now. He does not need his material security any more – because he has Jesus himself now.
What is the cloak that we shelter ourselves in? What is that cloak that we find so difficult to let go? What is that cloak that prevents me from being totally available to Jesus? Two Sundays ago, in the gospel story (Mk 10:21-22) Jesus told the rich man, “Come and follow me”, but he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth. But in the gospel story of today, Jesus says, ‘go’… but this man follows him along the road, for he was totally empty. One who was sitting on the sidewalks at the beginning of the story, is now on the road, following Jesus.
This is the conclusion of any encounter with Jesus: there is renunciation and there is discipleship. One of the central themes in the Gospel of Mark is discipleship. Mark constantly reminds us right from chapter 9 (Mk 9:33, 34; 10:32) that Jesus was on the road – the road to Jerusalem, where he is going to suffer, die and rise again. When Mark had made reference to this road, the disciples have also been arguing ‘who is the greatest?’ However, Bartimaeus seems to be the ideal disciple, as Mark concludes his narrative on discipleship. The next episode in Mark’s narration will be Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The healing of the blind Bartimaeus contains four main elements of Christian discipleship: a) the correct recognition of Jesus as Lord and Savior (“Jesus, Son of David”); b) the acknowledgement of the need for Jesus’help (“Have pity on me”; “I want to see”); c) ready response to Jesus’ call (“He . . . came to Jesus“); and d) becoming Jesus’ disciple (” … followed him on the way“).
What conclusion would you like to see to the story of your own encounter with Jesus today and everyday? Do you want to follow him along the road? Am I ready to walk with Jesus to Jerusalem– to the cross and resurrection? How good it would be to move without timidity, to travel through our life with freedom and joy! A blind beggar shows us how.