In today’s gospel account we find Jesus at the threshold of Jerusalem. He was about to climb on a donkey and ride into Jerusalem, an event we celebrate every Palm Sunday. Bar-Timaeus, the son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting begging along the way. We don’t know for how many years he was a beggar but evidently it was many because he was well known by the local citizens. He was regarded as nobody, so much of nobody that he wasn’t even called by his own name. He was known only as the son of a man by the name of Timaeus.
Bartimaeus had evidently heard about the miracle worker, Jesus of Nazareth, and here was Jesus entering into Jerusalem with the crowd shouting and singing: Hosannas, Alleluias, and such. Amidst all of this din and commotion Bartimaeus shouts out to Jesus.
This is a picture of a sad individual. He is blind, he is a beggar, and he is sitting at the side of the road. This is a rather desperate situation.
From Jesus’ point of view which, would you say, is the worst of these three afflictions?
Being a beggar?
Sitting at the side of the road?
From the perspective of the Kingdom the last of his three afflictions is the worst.
Why? Because the road is the road to the kingdom and Bartimaeus is sitting beside it rather than traveling it.
I want to draw four points out of today’s gospel account. The first and the most important point is that Bartimaeus knew he was blind.
Do we know that we really don’t see reality as Jesus sees it, that we miss seeing the works and the hand of God in our lives, that we’re bedazzled and blinded by the glitz and glitter of this world, and that our souls are surrounded by a spiritual darkness, and that we often do not let the light of Christ illuminate our way through that darkness? Do we realize we are blind when it comes to seeing ourselves as Jesus sees us?
Do we realize that we are heard and seen and cared for by God?
The second observation I have is that those around Bartimaeus tried to hush him up and keep him from Jesus. You can almost hear them: ‘Pull your head in! Give it a rest.’ Yes, there are always some who resist, who know better, who prefer the status quo.
Jesus stopped and said, `Call him here.’ Jesus stopped. Jesus always hears our call.
But why did he not go over to the man himself? Why did he send others to bring the man to him? This is a big question. There is an important principle involved here.
- When we get sick why does God not heal us himself? Why does he send us to a doctor?
- Why did God not just part the waters of the Red Sea? Why did he ask Moses to raise his staff over it first?
- Why does God not just forgive our sins? Why does he send us to the priest?
So they called the blind man. `Courage,’ they said `get up; he is calling you.’ Ah! Now they are evangelizing! Now they are participating in the mission of Jesus. Now they are truly co-operating with him. They are going out to the needy person, encouraging him, and telling him that Jesus is calling him. Wonderful! That’s how we should all be.
This is significant because that’s the situation in which we find ourselves today. There are a whole lot of voices and forces attempting to keep us from contacting and personally encountering Jesus Christ. They say keep your faith private, you are Catholic in the church not outside of it, be quiet leave your faith home.
Bartimaeus took the courageous risk of going against the crowd. He didn’t let his hope be deterred by the local populace and the voices of those who tried to keep him down and in his place. Any faith response worthy of the name requires the same sort of risk. Bartimaeus is a true hero because he went against the crowd and in his darkness took the risk.
Thirdly, Jesus stopped everything to pay personal attention to him. St. Mark records this as the last miracle Jesus worked before entering into Jerusalem there to suffer and die. As He enters Jerusalem to suffer and die, Jesus brings His whole redemptive journey to a halt in order to respond to this blind man’s request – that’s how important he was to Jesus. I have no doubt whatsoever that you are just as important to Jesus as was Bartimaeus and that, if you call out to Jesus, He will drop everything to give you the same level of attention, love and compassionate care as He gave to Bartimaeus.
Finally: Jesus spoke, `What do you want me to do for you?’
‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him `Master, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, `Go; your faith has saved you’. What saved him? His faith! What faith?
The blind beggar believed that if he called out to Jesus and asked for something that would help him follow Jesus along the road to the kingdom he would get it. And Jesus did not let him down.
And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.
I want to note that after Bartimaeus received his sight he followed in Jesus footsteps, which is a shorthand way of saying that Bartimaeus followed in the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus. He wanted to see and experience life as Jesus did.
What in the world do we see? What do we deliberately not see? What do we fail to see due to apathy, indifference, selfishness, pride and arrogance? Do we see the hurting, the hungry, the miserably poor, the outcast, and the little people? The media presents us with the glittering beautiful people, those at the pinnacle of political and corporate power, the superstars in the sports and entertainment industries. Who by the way sometimes are ridiculous and dumb and they want to give us advice how to live our lives.
Pope Francis invites us by his exemple to see other people, not just ourselves but those around us. Do we see them and really look at them, or do we ignore them?
And what about the little people, the no-names hit by tragedy that never interest television and newspaper reporters? Christ leads us to pay attention to those who are marginalized, those whom this world holds in little regard, whom this world wants us overlook, whom this world condemns to be of little value. This blindness needs to be cured. More tragically, the world would have us not to look at an ultrasound picture of a living, moving fetus or pictures of developing babies. The world would have us rid ourselves of the elderly and dying. The world would capture our attention by images of the glamorous and the glittering, blinding us to the ones who are really hurting.
All of this leads us to the great question of the day. How does Christ see you? What is Christ’s vision for you? The answer is, of course, not simple. But what is an issue is the question of what it means to be a human person. And what it means to be a human person is the overriding question of our day.
Do we want to see? What do we want to see? Are we willing to cry out and to insist? Do we let others silence us? Let us have courage today and ask to see. Let us ask to see the Lord and ask to know His ways. Let us ask to see all that we need to see so that we may rejoice in the Lord and follow him like Bartimaeus did!