October 25, 2015 at St Peter the Apostle Church in Naples, FL
Jeremiah 31, 7-9 + Psalm 126 + Hebrews 5, 1-6 + Mark 10, 46-52
This is the last healing event in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus is almost to Jerusalem. He has just spoken for the third and last time of the suffering and death that awaits him in Jerusalem. It is amazing to me that these disciples who have been with Jesus so long want to silence this blind man. He may be blind, but he sees something they have failed to see, and he has faith that they have still not found. He knows where to go for what he needs. When Jesus asks him what he wants, I suspect that it was for the sake of the others who have been telling him to shut up.
Bartimaeus has come to Jesus. He expresses his faith and his need, and there comes the response: “Be on your way. Your faith has healed you.” The response of Jesus is very important. He confirms the faith of Bartimaeus. Does Jesus heal the man, or is it his faith? We should pay attention to this detail revealed by the command. What faith has done for Bartimaeus is bring him to Jesus. That is the experience of his healing, coming to Jesus. What the story unfolds for us then is what faith does: bring us to Jesus in whose presence we find healing.
The faith of this man would not be discouraged or diminished by a crowd who told him to shut up. He stands up to their insult and dismissal, because this is what people of faith do; they wait and they watch no matter what for the moment when they can come into the presence of Jesus, the Son of David. In that presence whatever is needed is found, whatever is lacking is provided. The final evidence of this faith is seen in the decision Bartimaeus makes. Jesus says: “Be on your way.” Bartimaeus says by his action: “My way is your way” and he follows Jesus down the road all the way to Jerusalem we can only suppose.
So we proclaim a story of faith today that is the story of mercy. The faith we share must lead us to Jesus. The faith we share must give us courage to stand up to those who might want us to be silent. The faith we share in the company of Jesus will satisfy all our needs and free us to set our feet on the road to Jerusalem with Christ Jesus. This is a story of the Church which has at its heart the mission of faith, the mission of bringing people to Jesus Christ. There are still people who cannot see. There are still people sitting by the side of the road. There are still people living on the margins of society and at the margins of the church itself, and sometimes we tell them to keep quiet, because like that crowd following Jesus, we have not yet seen what there is to see, and taken the courage of faith seriously enough to throw aside our cloaks, our old ways and our old habits.
Mercy is the mission of the church, and mercy is our mission. Having come to Jesus ourselves, and having found the sight to see as Jesus sees, we must gather up others who are left on the side of life’s road, the homeless, jobless, and hopeless, the broken and abandoned the abused, the fear filled refugees and all from the margins of society and darkness to come with us along the way all the way to Jerusalem where, having entered into the passion and death of Christ, we shall share in his victory and his glory. There is no other way. There is no other hope. There is no place for us to find what we need.