28 October. 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Jer 31:7-9. The prophet pleads, “Save your people, the remnant of Israel!” and God promises, “I will lead them back.”
Heb 5:1-6. Jesus is a priest forever, like Melchizedek, fully equipped to be our mediator with god.
Mk 10:46-52. Jesus hears the prayer of a blind man and gives him back his sight.
Bartimaeus and Ourselves
There are many stories of the blind being healed in the gospel, but this one about Bartimaeus is the best known one. It is laden with simple and easy-to-understand teaching.
I remember a Charlie Browne cartoon some years ago, when Lucy was berating Charlie, and she said to him “Do you know what’s wrong with you, Charlie Browne?” “What’s wrong with me?” asked Charlie. “What’s wrong with you is that you don’t want to know what’s wrong with you!” How unlike Bartimaeus in today’s gospel.
It was a moment of grace. Bartimaeus was blind, and Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. Bartimaeus had a choice. He could let Jesus go by, or he could grab the moment, and be healed. Jesus didn’t go around healing anybody. Rather he went around with – the power to heal, and the person on the roadside had to make a decision about stopping him or not. Whenever they did stop him and ask to be healed, he told them that it was their faith that healed them.
Bartimaeus was determined. When he called out, those around him tried to get him to shut up, and stay quiet. That could have been enough to put him off, if he were not so determined. He shouted louder, and kept shouting until Jesus stopped, and called him over. Don’t forget, Bartimaeus was blind, and yet Jesus did not go over to him. Jesus remained where he was, and he waited for Bartimaeus to come to him. If he really wanted to be cured, he would easily overcome any problems in getting to Jesus.
It was obvious to everybody that Bartimaeus was blind, and yet Jesus asked him “What do you want me to do for you?” Once again, it was Jesus putting the onus on us. If you want to be cured of blindness, of alcoholism, or of depression, then you yourself have got to come to Jesus and tell him. He knows rightly what’s wrong with you, yet he says “Ask and you will receive.” “Your heavenly Father will surely give to those who ask.”
Bartimaeus’s reply was simple, implying some sort of uncomplicated faith that did not require long speeches, or agonised beseeching. “I want to see” was his reply. That prayer struck home, and Jesus told him that it was his, Bartimaeus” faith, that healed him.
The quality of his prayer was simple and uncomplicated. Firstly, he needed to get Jesus’ attention, and then he had to make his request. Somewhere he had arrived at the conviction that Jesus was not someone who turned a deaf ear to the cry of the poor. He was spot-on, and his hunch proved right. He is certainly a wonderful example to any of us. We are told that he threw aside his old cloak, got up, and ran to Jesus. The old cloak may have been symbolic of his past, of his darkness, of his despair. He was determined to step out in faith, and to go for it. Jesus would not disappoint him, and, somehow, he seemed to know that. All attempts of those around him to silence him only succeeded in making him more determined. He was clear in his mind about what he wanted, and he was also clear from whence his help would come.
First Reading: Book of Jeremiah 31:7-9
For thus says the Lord: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.”
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Second Reading: Epistle to the Hebrews 5:1-6
Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people.
And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you;” as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.