THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, B (Healing of the Blind Man Bartimaeus)
A beggar is sitting by the roadside. The beggar is blind and a man of desperate desire. He is told that Jesus is by chance passing by and he calls Him by his given name, Jesus. He calls Jesus “son of David” - a messianic title. He realizes that God has sent him to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free. (Lk 4:18)
Jesus interprets this heartfelt, personal greeting as faith and tells him, “Your faith has saved you.” The blind man couldn’t see light and colors but his eye of faith went far and saw deeper than the rest did. We are amazed why those accompanying Jesus tried to silence the blind man who called Jesus “the Son of David”. We are tempted to think they were in ideological conflict with the messianic title attributed to Jesus. They could see light and colors but their eyes of faith were blind to Jesus. Yes, spiritual blindness is a terrible thing.
And this is not the first time we are told about this awkward behavior of Jesus’ disciples discouraging those going to Jesus. They denied the little kids access Jesus; but He disagreed and said “Let the little children come to me” (Mt. 19:14); and the short man Zacchaeus had to find his way through. (Lk 19:1-5). We are the crowds walking around Jesus and we must keep watch that we do not prevent or discourage people coming to Jesus.
Those scolding the man crying out for help are those who have grown to accept that his predestined place is to remain at the side of the road. The blind man is the model of all those who are marginalized in our societies and forced to beg for mercy while the great ones of the world pass by. But the faith which saves him is shown by his unconquerable spirit, his refusal to accept that he is destined to remain there for the rest of his life. Let us refuse to be held by any situation or anybody to reach out our cry to Jesus.
We can distinguish four stages in this healing encounter, and all of them contribute to the miraculous healing:
– He stops, in verse 49;
– He says, “Call him here” in the same verse;
– “What do you want me to do for you?” in verse 51;
– “Go; your faith has saved you,” in verse 52.
The climax of the story is very touching. Bartimeus “followed [Jesus] on his way; which means he became Jesus’ disciple. And you might like to enter into the metaphor of him walking with Jesus as a symbol of what happens when the marginalized take their place in the movement of history.
Bartimeus, of course, could not see at all. While many people are completely blind to the presence of God, most of us have weaknesses in regard to seeing the truth of God in our lives. We do not always see how our actions can hurt others. We do not always consider how violating the moral laws of God might hurt us in our development as human beings. We are not always mindful of crossing boundaries in our behavior which disrespects others by our words or actions. We can be indulgent, selfish and unfair. We could even go through the day never thinking of God, acting as though God did not exist. And so we are all blind in so many different ways. So the prayer of Bartimeus is easily our prayer. “Master, I want to see.” I want to gaze on Jesus with the eyes of faith.
We should pray to the Lord to send us leaders like Jesus who, when they are surrounded by disciples and large crowds and some blind beggar sitting at the side of the road begins to shout for help, will not continue walking but will stop, and not merely throw a handout in his general direction but call him to come forward and stand in the center of everybody; and they will not take for granted that they know what this man wants, but will take the trouble to ask him “What do you want me to do for you?” And when the man has begun to see again they will not take any glory for themselves but will say to all that it was his own faith that saved him so that he may take his place as a free member of the community and follow them along the road.
Let’s mindful that there are many people sitting at the side of the road, shouting to us to have pity on them, but they often shout in strange ways:
* by behaving badly in the classroom;
* by taking drugs and alcohol;
* by sulking, remaining silent or locked up in their rooms;
* sometimes by insisting that they are happy to be at the side of the road while others pass by.
Like Jesus, we need to stop all that we are doing so that we can hear them express their deep longing to have their sight restored to them.
The people of the third world have been a long time at the side of the road, begging, while the wealthy nations in a large crowd make their way to ever greater prosperity. When these people begin to shout, asking others to have pity on them, many scold them as if they are wrong to shout, as if it is their perpetual destiny to remain at the side of the road and beg. May the Lord put in their hearts an unconquerable faith that they too can take their places on the road to prosperity, and may this gift of faith eventually save them.
Finally, when we have been a long time at the side of the road it is not easy to stand in front of everyone and express what we really want for ourselves. Let us look around and appreciate the hand of the Lord extended to us through His different messengers and let us thank the Lord for those who say to us
“Courage, get up, the Lord is calling you.”