The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
28 October 2018 at St. Peter the Apostle & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl
Jeremiah 31, 7-9 + Psalm 126 + Hebrews 5, 1-6 + Mark 10, 46-52
This is the last miracle in Mark’s Gospel, and the second time Jesus cures a someone blind. These two cure stories are like bookends beginning and concluding the section in which Jesus attempts to get his disciples to understand who he is in light of the upcoming passion. The first time Jesus seems to have trouble. He must touch the man’s eyes twice before he could see clearly. This time there is no touch at all, just faith that brings blind Bartimaeus into the company of followers. Bartimaeus wanted precisely what the disciples were avoiding: to see things clearly. It was the request Jesus had been wanting to hear and longing to grant, but his closest companions never ask for that. All they ask for is to have a place of honor in the Kingdom they imagine Jesus will begin.
Bartimaeus stands among us today as a model disciple suggesting that we might best get the attention of Jesus by asking for the right things. Asking for mercy and asking to see more clearly moves Jesus to invite us to draw near. There is in us all a kind of blindness that keeps us from seeing clearly as God sees. We sometimes cling to our old ways; to the prejudice and judgements we have made about others, to old hurts and offenses like blind Bartimaeus had clung to his cloak. For him, it was his security. Perhaps his only possession. Yet, at the call of Jesus he throws it aside in a gesture of hope and confidence in this one he has called: “Son of David”. His use of that title for Jesus is the first time it is spoken in Mark’s Gospel. Until now, Jesus has been “Son of Man.” The secret Jesus has been keeping and insisting on is about to be revealed in Jerusalem where the welcoming crowds will also cry out their “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Bartimaeus who is blind is the first to proclaim Jesus as the one Israel longed and waited for who lift up the poor.
Now one who has been sitting at the side of the road gets up, and Mark tells us that he begins to follow the way. This does not necessarily mean that he followed Jesus on to Jerusalem, but rather than going his own way, he followed the way of discipleship. So many in this world are just sitting by the side of the road waiting. Maybe it’s time to get up, because the Lord is calling us all. If we can just manage to take up the cry of Bartimaeus for mercy, ask to see as God sees, and cast off the cloak of our past, we have every reason to hear with great joy the best news, “Take courage. Jesus is calling for you.”