They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
In today’s gospel we meet Bartimaeus, a blind man begging by the side of the road. He may well have been quite a nuisance. As someone who likes things to proceed well, I am pretty sure I would have been one of those “shushers” who tried to keep Bartimaeus from making a loud commotion. People scolded him and tried to shut him up, but he kept yelling: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stops and invites him to come forward. The crowd calms down and changes its tone. Jesus doesn’t set up hoops for Bartimaeus to jump through, nor does he make difficult demands. We can imagine Jesus looking at him with great affection as he says: “What do you want me to do for you?” Poor Bartimaeus was usually the one pushed aside and ignored, yet suddenly every eye is fixed on him as Jesus speaks. The beggar can only stammer “I…I…I want to see.”
Perhaps this gospel passage can become a parable of faith for us. We struggle to make sense of our lives; we wrestle with our conflicting emotions and even the demons inside our souls. Most often we struggle to rely on our own solutions because we find it so hard to let anyone else inside – least of all our God. We want to be self-sufficient at all costs, and so our blindness persists. But notice that Bartimaeus comes to Jesus when people in the crowd say to him: “Get up; he is calling you; you have nothing to fear.” Pushed forward by others, he is able to hand over his very life to Jesus with the simple words, “I want to see.”
Isn’t that what each of us wants – to see, to understand, to make sense of our lives? And don’t we discover how to trust God’s loving plan precisely through the challenge and concern, the love and sacrifice of those around us – our families and friends, sometimes even total strangers. In so many ways these good folks become our “saints” – those who set us on the road to healing and hope.
We can bless the gift these people are in our lives as we celebrate the Feast of All Saints on November 1. While this day formally honors those great saints officially canonized by the Church, it can also be a day to bless the Lord for all those good people who shower us with the faith and love, the hope and holiness of our good and loving God.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
Lord, all of us have our blind spots that cause us to misunderstand others, to undervalue the blessings in our lives, to rationalize behaviors that interfere with a heart of service, or cause us to question your absolute faithfulness and our unique relationship with you. With your grace we can remove such illusions, embrace your abundant promises, and be a source of good for many. With great expectations we will move through our day.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team