30th Sunday 2012 B
Those traveling with Jesus look upon Bartimaeus as an interruption on the journey. Jesus, on the other hand, sees Bartimaeus as the point of the journey. But why is this event so significant? There is a double meaning: Bartimaeus regains his sight because he recognized or saw who Jesus really was, the Son of David, the Messiah.
Bartimaeus shouts, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me." Refusing to be silenced, Bartimaeus continues to yell out. Had the crowd succeeded in silencing Bartimaeus, they would have "silenced" this manifestation of why Jesus came: to bring "sight" not only to Bartimaeus but to all.
Jesus finally responds, “ ‘Call him.’ So they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.’ ”
“He threw aside his cloak, sprang up and came to Jesus.”
The beggar responds to Jesus’ call as we would expect a perfect disciple to respond. He immediately throws aside what is probably his only possession, his cloak, his sleeping mat and jumps up and hurries to Jesus.
In the time of Christ beggars commonly spread their cloaks on the ground to catch the coins tossed down to them by passers by. In the text it says that when Christ called him, Bartimaeus threw off his cloak, jumped up and went to Jesus. By this simple action, Mark points out how Bartimaeus was looking not for a few coins to be gathered in his cloak. He threw aside material things and went straight to Jesus.
Jesus’ next words are very symbolic. “What do you want me to do for you?” When he stands before Jesus, Jesus does not presume that he is interested only in a handout as others do, so he asks him to state his need. "Teacher, let me see again." The desperate need of his life stirred up faith and hope in Christ.
“What do you want me to do for you?”
Have we heard that specific question recently? Just last week when, after Jesus’ third prediction of his passion, death and resurrection, James and John come up to him and demand, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” At that point, the only other time in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Of course, we know the sons of Zebedee want seats in glory. But here, Mark depicts Bartimaeus as the perfect disciple by the way he responds to Jesus’ call.
If Bartimaeus had called to you or me, would we see Bartimaeus or would we see a beggar? Would we ask the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” or would we presume it is only about money? Or would we think, “I have nothing to give to you but money”. Do we see the deeper hunger that is in the heart of the person and think that we have something to offer, or do we only see the outstretched hand that grasps for coins, food clothing?
Bartimaeus’ answer is a simple: “Master, I want to see.” According to Mark, it’s the only prayer a true Christian should ever make. The one who gives and the one who needs must both see! Jesus saw the heart and hope of Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus sees what others with sight cannot see; that Jesus is the path to life. Although Jesus gives him the option of going off, Bartimaeus stays by Jesus and follows him.
Immediately after Bartimaeus asks to see we logically would expect him to command, “Receive your sight!” or something similar. But instead, he simply tells him, “Go your way; your faith has healed you”. The Jerusalemtranslation says “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Scripture scholar Marcus Borg points out that rarely does this biblical word “salvation” refer to the afterlife. We see how to be healed, to be made whole is to be saved. According to his reading, one way Jesus saves right here and now is to give us a new way of looking at reality, something the “unsaved” never seem to acquire. Jesus enables us to live a full human life.
The blind and deaf Helen Keller said, "The most beautiful things in the world can't be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart."
This is the beginning of the “Year of faith”. Jesus stressed that it was by faith that he was saved and then he followed. As we reach out to fellow Catholics to invite them back home, let us pray for the eyes to see the real hunger in the hearts of our family, friends and acquaintances. Let us share our faith with others. Let us believe that we have something more than money to give. Later we hear Peter say to a beggar, “Neither silver or gold have I but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus get up and walk.”
Jesus said that the blind man was saved by his faith. But what faith was that? Not his belief in the Trinity, which was unknown at the time. Not his belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus, which had not yet happened.
At its root, primary faith is not a belief in certain dogmas, but a raw response to mystery. Einstein, who was an agnostic, wrote: “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. To sense that behind everything we experience there is something that the mind cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. Those who cannot wonder and stand in awe are as good as dead.”
Faith is the response to mystery. We sense that there is something greater and better than us; greater and better than anything outside us; something so great and so good that we cannot even give it a name. “I am who am”. We translate that as God.
The secret of life is to be able to see, to see life’s real meaning and direction.
The original faith of the blind man was not complicated. He simply believed that Jesus could heal him. The original creed of Christians was simple: Jesus is Lord! The original moral code was simple: Love! Everything else is commentary.