Dear Believers in the Christ,
Mark 10:46-52 is one of my favorite gospel stories. There is abundant grace in hearing this text at Mass this weekend. A blind man is begging along the roadside. This man, however, is named in the gospel. His name is Bartimaeus.
It is rare for a poor man to be named in the scriptures. A name has power and recognition. A name reveals the dignity of the person. To call someone by name is honoring the person. I can imagine that in the early Christian community, the followers of Jesus must have learned to respect the man who had been healed along the roadside. I suspect that his name was passed down in the oral tradition and found its way into this story because people knew the man and wanted to make sure his name was always associated with the healing touch of Jesus. Bartimaeus is his name for all eternity. We, too, can learn to see him in his dignity.
I would love to find out how Bartimaeus knew who Jesus was before the encounter with him. There seems to be an incredible gift of the Holy Spirit at work here. The blind man knew who Jesus was and what he could do for him. Jesus, then, must have known this blind man, Bartimaeus. In my imagination, I want them to be classmates or perhaps their families were neighbors down the way. There seems to be a relationship even before this story begins. How else would Bartimaeus understand what Jesus could do for him? It seems to be more than hearsay.
Each line of this story is so rich. It demands of us a moment of prayer, taking each line of this text to heart. Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus. He gives voice to his need. He gives voice to his blindness. He gives voice to his faith in Jesus who he senses is near, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” He continues to call out even though the people around him want to quiet him. I love the gumption and the deep faith of this blind beggar on the roadside.
The people finally say to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” Gosh, I love this. This may be the most beautiful thing anyone could say to someone who is hurting. So, he goes to Jesus. Jesus then asks him what he wants. First, though, he throws off his cloak. This garment is an image of his old life. It will be replaced with a new cloak, that of baptism. The garment is a sign to us that new life is happening.
Bartimaeus declares to Jesus, “Master, I want to see.” His request is so honest and so real. His answer does not only come from his physical limitations, but from his deep faith in the one he knows will set him free.
The divine question embedded in this text is not just for Bartimaeus, but it is also for us. Jesus says to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” I wonder what you would say if you had witnessed this exchange. I wonder what I would say to Jesus, if along the roadside, I had encounter him. This is one of the questions of Jesus’ life that we need to take into our deafness, into our blindness, and into our inability to speak. It is a question for all our hardships in life. I pray we can listen to this question with all our faith, our hope and our understanding of what Jesus can do for us.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor