“Not so blind after all”
“As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the road.”
In today’s Gospel Bartimaeus is both in the center and on the periphery. Bartimaeus has a name and a family. Bartimaeus is literally son (bar) of Timaeus. There is dignity to having a name and being known by your name. (Interestingly, in Mark’s Gospel, other than Jesus and the disciples, John the Baptist and Herod, Bartimaeus is the only person named until the Passion narrative. [Gospel of Mark, Sacra Pagina]) Bartimaeus was on the roadside that many walked, so he was also in the midst of conversations. He had heard about Jesus of Nazareth.
Yet Bartimaeus was also on the margins. He could not see. He sat by the roadside as many walked by. He was there to beg — for money? Food? Companionship? Conversation? Kindness? For his daily needs? Do you ever wonder why someone like Bartimaeus, with a name and family, is on the margins, begging?
- Have you ever heard someone begging from the margins?
- What happened?
Jesus heard both the center and the margins. He was teaching many and was the center of attention among a crowd of people. Yet Jesus not only heard someone on the margins — he stopped. He heard Bartimaeus crying out for mercy. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” A wonderful definition of mercy is that it is “the willingness to enter into the chaos of another’s life” (James F. Keenan, SJ). Bartimaeus was asking Jesus, at the center, to enter his chaos. He was asking for mercy.
Though unable to see, Bartimaeus could hear and use his voice. He claimed his dignity with his voice, even when others wanted him silenced. A blind man silenced. Further efforts of indignity and marginalization. Still, Bartimaeus persisted, begging mercy of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of David. Bartimaeus ‘saw’ in Jesus someone who could respond to his cry for mercy.
- When have you begged for mercy?
- Perhaps for healing, insight and bravery in this time in which we live?
- Perhaps when the masses try to silence your efforts, saying “This is just how things are right now,” or “Yes, the whole church is broken and that is just how it is, period [as if there is no way out of this].”
Jesus heard. He asked others, perhaps the very ones trying to silence blind Bartimaeus, to call out to Bartimaeus: “Take courage! Arise! He is calling you!” What a delightful shift!
We can imagine the tender exchange that follows. Bartimaeus immediately responds to Jesus’ call to come — as he was. Merciful Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he would like Jesus to do. Respectfully addressing Jesus, Bartimaeus asks to see. Jesus responds, “Go. Your faith has saved you.” The verb in Jesus’ response, “Your faith has saved (sōzein) you,” indicates the healing could be both physical and spiritual [Gospel of Mark]. Mercy has no limits.
What does the healed Bartimaeus do next? He follows Jesus on the ‘way’ of discipleship.
And so we go!
- How does Mercy long to be lived in You?