Sunday 28th October 2012

Word of god and Salesian life by Fr Juan Jose’ Bartolome’ SDB

30th Sunday Year B Lectio divina on Mk 10,46-52

The healing of the blind man illustrates in a dramatic way the power of blind faith in Jesus. A crowd was following Jesus – all of them people who had the gift of sight. They tried to stop the poor blind beggar calling on Jesus, but he would not allow someone who might be able to help him, to pass by in the distance. He was unable to see but his blindness brought him to Jesus. He dared to ask for the impossible: “Master, let me see again.” The blind man was the only one who saw in Jesus his opportunity. And when he regained his sight, he could not help but follow Jesus – he gave his life to the one who had given him sight. Trusting in Jesus, even when he seems far away from us, and facing opposition from the people close to him, may well be our path on the journey to faith and the beginning of our discipleship. If others have not noticed how much we are in need of Jesus, that should not stop us from revealing our need. It does not matter if we live surrounded by blind people. The important thing is that our blindness should not be an obstacle in our search for the light we so desperately need, and which we can find only in Jesus. What others think or say does not matter. All we need care about is receiving the light that comes from following Jesus.

46As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ 48 And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ 49 Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said, ‘get up; he is calling you.’ 50 So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him, ‘Master, let me see again.’ 52 Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

1. Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it

Healing the blind man was not the only miracle Jesus worked (Mk 8,22-26) on his journey to Jerusalem, but it was to be the last (Mk 11,1). Although the incident is presented as the account of a miracle, at a deeper level it tells the story of an authentic faith journey. The man who lived on the side of the road, on the outskirts of the city, begging for help, ends up being healed by Jesus and following him along the road. Meeting Jesus enabled Bartimaeus to receive the sight of his eyes and the light to follow Jesus. The narrative is revealing: Jesus is about 25 Km from Jerusalem, walking towards his destiny (Mk 10,33-34). It was customary for beggars like Bartimaeus to stay near the gates of the city to take advantage of as many passers-by as possible. When Bartimaeus knew that Jesus was passing by, he begged repeatedly, not for alms but for mercy (Mk 10,47-48). He cried out in a loud voice that annoyed the passers-by (Mk 10.48). It is significant that he did not ask first for healing, but for attention and mercy. Jesus reacted with urgency, unlike those who were following him at the time. It does not bother Jesus when people shout at him, provided it comes from a real need. He ordered the people who were scolding the blind man to call him. This was a command, an order that left no choice (Mk 10,49). His reaction changed the attitude of those who were with him and they encouraged the blind man to approach Jesus. The attitude of the blind man also changed. He jumped up and went to meet Jesus. His need for compassion brought the blind man to Jesus. His need to see Jesus prompted him to ask for a miracle. Jesus wanted to be sure so he asked the man to state his request explicitly: he wanted to see. Jesus saw in this request an act of faith. Bartimaeus not only received back his sight. He was healed and came to believe. He gained entry to the company of followers of Jesus, and was set free from destitution and darkness.

Bartimaeus’s journey of faith illustrates the itinerary of one who is not yet a disciple, who depends on the charity of others and who has the courage to ask Jesus for mercy whenever he happens to pass by. As soon as Jesus hears him, he calls him, asks him what he wants and heals him. Jesus sees faith where others see only blindness. He values the blind man’s trust more than his cry for mercy. This is his way of making disciples.

II. MEDITATE: apply what the text says to life

The healing of the blind man was a minor incident in the public ministry of Jesus. It offers us today a chance to reflect on our life of faith as expressed in our prayer, and on the responsibility we have to take care of others, especially the poorest of all, those who have most need of Jesus.

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem with his disciples. He left Jericho apparently without noticing the presence of a blind beggar at the roadside. If the man had not shouted, nobody would have noticed him, and he would surely have died a blind beggar, seeking alms at the gate of the city every day for the rest of his life. If he recovered his sight, and if he became a follower of Jesus, if he could now see the light, if he no longer had need to beg, if he could leave the side of the road and walk with Jesus, it was all because he had the courage to ask in a loud voice for healing. For a man who spent his days asking for help, it was not difficult to ask once more. He lived on the generosity of passers-by and he had to rely on the people who went past every day. The blind man asked help of everyone who passed by. However, the day he learned that it was Jesus passing by, he stopped asking for alms and dared to ask instead for a miracle. He was not embarrassed by the audacity of his request. He shouted out his need, even to the point of annoying the people who were with the Master. He did not care if he was attracting attention. He did not worry about possible recriminations. He did not want to miss his chance and he kept on shouting, until eventually Jesus heard him. Jesus was not in any way upset by the shouting. He recognised in it a cry of faith, asking for something the man had never asked for before, something that only he, Jesus, the Son of David, could give, namely sight. This blind faith, crying out loudly for a miracle, not in the silence of the temple, but amid all the hustle and bustle of the street, should serve as an example and encouragement to us in our life of prayer. It is also a serious lesson on how we should live our faith every day. In fact, we should be envious of the enthusiasm of the poor beggar who, one day, gave up asking for mere alms and found the courage to ask for the healing he so badly needed. He knew very well that only sight would free him from the need to beg. Anything he had received up to then was only a help towards an end, prolonging his days of darkness. He did not want to miss the chance that came his way that day when Jesus passed by. He was tired of begging every day and he dared to ask for the definitive remedy. He put all his trust in Jesus and asked for what he needed most. This is what saved him from his poverty and his blindness.

The blind beggar reminds us today that maybe we are in a similar situation to what he was in when he met Jesus. We ask for help from the people around us, but we do not have the courage to beg for a miracle from Jesus, shouting out our need if necessary, without worrying about what others may think of us. Why are we so worried about what others think when, in reality, we are in such great need? Perhaps we do not realize how helpless we are. We seem to be unaware that we are lacking the light we need to live our lives. We accept too readily our lack of means and we are not prepared to waste time proclaiming our need in public. Our faith does not heal us because we do not feel the need to be healed. If we do not accept that we are lacking the light that Jesus alone can give, we will not go to him to look for it. Only a blind man knows what it is like to be without light.

Like Bartimaeus, we should not let Jesus leave us without healing our blindness. We should stop asking for alms and have the courage to ask for a miracle. Our prayer life will not be worthy of Jesus’ attention until we shout out our need for him and acknowledge his power to heal us.

We need not be afraid of losing the respect we have for him. If we shout at God to make sure he hears us, because we are in need of him, we will win his attention and obtain what we ask for with such faith. This is what the blind beggar did and Jesus praised him for it, and healed him. It is not that we lack poverty or need – we lack faith in Christ and we lose trust in his will to heal us. This is why we continue to live with our weaknesses and do not have the courage to ask for healing.

The disciples who were with Jesus were upset by the shouts of the poor beggar. It did not occur to them that his shouting was the expression of his faith, and they were annoyed by his insistence. If it had been up to them, they would have passed by at a distance. They would have preferred the blind man to remain silent and Jesus would not have heard him. Do we not see ourselves reflected in their attitude? Today as in the past, the disciples of Jesus have little time and care for the people on the roadside shouting out for help! We are so preoccupied with our God, or, more likely, with our own personal needs, that we fail to see the needs of those around us. The fact that we have eyes to see allows us to overlook the reality that faces so many others who have never seen the light, or have lost it forever. Because God has freed us from our illness, or from some trial, or from our state of need, we are blind to the illnesses of others, and deaf to their cries for help. We even get annoyed at their problems which are similar to our own. We often succumb to the temptation to forget about those who are not yet followers of Jesus, just because we have been making the effort for some time to walk with him. Loving Jesus should lead us to share our joy with all who want something from him, and all who are searching for him as we once did. Following Jesus closely should lead us to go towards those who need him in order to help them to come to him. He is the only Master who can heal all ills. We do not deserve to be called followers of Jesus if we do not help him to draw near to all who have need of him today, and who may become his followers tomorrow.

Many of us live our Christian lives, making sure we are close to God, attentive only to what we want from God, seeing to it that nobody else disturbs him by shouting to him for help, and keeping our distance from people who are not his disciples. In this way we deprive the world of God, of his light and his salvation. The world today does not see God as Saviour because the followers of God keep him to themselves. We want him for ourselves, and we get annoyed with the people who are crying out for him. The result is that we do not make the world a better place, and we do not allow God to hear the cries of those who are searching for him.

Following Jesus should make us the kind of people who do not get annoyed when others cry out for miracles. We know that Jesus can work miracles wherever he finds faith. Is it not because he have so little faith that we lack the courage to ask for the impossible when we pray? When we ask, the impossible becomes possible. Is it, perhaps, because we do not know how to pray, that we try to stop others who are better at it than we are? We need to think about it!