Date: Sunday, October 28, 2018
30th Sunday Ordinary Time B
How do you react when you see and hear a beggar on the street asking for money? I become uncomfortable. I may stop. I may keep on walking by and then feel guilty for not having more compassion. Bartimaeus (the name means: Son of Honor) is a blind beggar on the side of the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. He cries out: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me?” Is he asking for alms? for healing? for something more? The crowd tries to silence him, but Jesus hears his voice and calls him. Bystanders tell Bartimaeus: “Take courage; get up; Jesus is calling you.” The blind beggar throws off his cloak, springs up and comes to Jesus. Jesus inquires: “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus replies: “Master, I want to see.”
This encounter comes at a critical time. Jesus is attempting to explain to his disciples what it means to be a “disciple”. It is not a matter of seeking a special place of honor close to Jesus but a life of sacrificial love in imitation of Jesus. Jesus is hoping his disciples “will come to see” the deeper meaning of their association with him and who Jesus truly is. Bartimaeus, a blind man, seems to know the identity of Jesus. He calls Jesus: “Son of David.” The title refers to Jesus as kin of King David -- the Anointed One of God.
Jesus heals the blind man with the words: “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Bartimaeus follows Jesus to Jerusalem. Some scholars suggest that because Bartimaeus’ name is recorded in the Gospel according to St. Mark that he indeed becomes a faithful disciple of Jesus and is remembered by the Aramaic Christian community of Jericho.
Like Bartimaeus our prayer can be: “I want to see!” It is a prayer that God will open our eyes to see and our open ears to hear the cry of the poor. It may be a beggar crying out on the side of the road, or civilians crying out in war torn Syria and Yemen or a caravan of human beings fleeing poverty and violence. Closer to home, it may be the cry of persons and families asking help to cope with opioid addiction. When we hear these loud or muted cries then we may also hear in our hearts someone say: “Take courage; get up; Jesus is calling you.” Like Bartimaeus we are called to follow Jesus as wounded healers. Scripture is clear. We will be judged on what we have done or not done to the least of our brothers and sisters. What is Jesus asking us, you, me, to do? God hears the cry of the poor. Even a smile to someone on the side of the road makes a difference.