30th Sunday in O.T. (B); October 28, 2018
Jer 31:7-9 Ps 126 Heb 5:1-6 Mk 10:46-52
Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison
Today, we have the familiar story in the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, of Jesus healing the blind man, Bartimaeus. The eye is the organ of sight and this man simply can’t see. It’s not clear from the text that he was either born that way or he had lost his sight. Given the thread of the story, I think we can assume the latter. We know from other biblical texts that the state of blindness has great significance and since this story is written in the present tense, it is being addressed to us today. Bartimaeus stands for you and I who need God’s light, the light of Faith. It is essential that we acknowledge our spiritual blindness, that we need the light of Christ; otherwise, we would remain blind forever.
How do we lose our sight? At baptism we are initiated into the Church, the Body of Christ as we receive the Holy Spirit. We are anointed as priest, prophet, and king as our parents and godparents promise to guide and model the path of holiness, witness to the one true God, and to exercise kingly power in service. But, as St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta notes, by the time a child reaches the age of seven, she has already bought into the Lie. Which is what? It comes forth from the Dominant Consciousness of secular ideology that promises that we can obtain happiness by securing the goods of the world. So the light of the Gospel gradually dims as we swim in this sea of secular ideology in which we buy into the lie that if I have enough wealth, enough status and accomplishment, enough control over my life, and enough pleasurable delight that I will obtain a life worth living. So, we see reality through the prism of Having, in which we process everything, including the Gospel values and our Tradition, through that interpretative lens. That, brothers, is spiritual blindness and it’s insidious because we can delude ourselves that we aren’t impaired which makes it very difficult to seek healing.
When we do not process Reality through the lens of the Gospel, we are de facto, living in Exile, which was the situation described in our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah. The remnant of the nation of Israel had been cast into Babylonian Exile because they were not faithful to the Covenant. They were no longer faithful or obedient, but we’re believing and behaving according to pagan culture. Do we do the same as we behave according to an individualist, self-referential culture? Just as the Jews in Exile, they and we are not processing Reality as God sees it, but we have also become blind—living in a Strange Land uprooted from right relationship with the one true God and each other.
Exile, estrangement from God, causes pain. Bartimaeus represents those who are aware of their pain and he cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me’” (Mk 10:47). Notice that “Many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more” (v. 48). Why did the crowd rebuke him? They were complacent in their own blindness and if Bartimaeus strives to be healed, that poses a challenge to themselves. Have you ever experienced being pressured in prison not to cry out to Jesus, but to be content to get along in prison culture and play the soul-deadening games? But, Bartimaeus rejects the crowd’s false promises because he is confident of being healed. Why? He knows that he is in the presence of the one sent by God as he correctly identifies Jesus as being “the son of David.”
Jesus hears his cry, stops, and tells the crowd to “Call him.” They do and a subtle shift is happening. The crowd, Bartimaeus, and us are moving to a deeper level of faith. Jesus asks the Blind Man something that seems so patently self-evident: “What do you want me to do for you?” Really, Jesus? The guy is blind; what do you think he wants? That misses the point. Jesus is not a magician. He can only do a miracle if the recipient has faith. He is inviting Bartimaeus, he is inviting you and I to deeper level of surrender. For that to happen we have to ask, which is exactly what Bartimaeus does: “Master, I want to see” (v. 51b).
In his encounter with Jesus, Bartimaeus regains the sight that he had once lost and with that the fullness of his dignity. And, what does he do? He gets back on his feet and resumes the journey and “followed him on the way” (v. 52c). Bartimaeus not only has regained his sight, but he has a guide, Jesus, and a path—the same that Jesus is traveling. Bartimaeus is showing us what discipleship is: following Jesus “along the way” in the light of faith.
Brothers, this is the linchpin of the story. Do you want to be healed of the blindness that comes with Secular Ideology, in your case prison culture, in order to see what is really Real through the interpretive lens of the Gospel? Do you want to see through the Mind of Christ. Do you want to experience Reality within his Sacred Heart? That’s the question. Bartimaeus knew he was blind and he knew that Jesus could heal him because he was “the Son of David.” The question is: do you and I want to see?