30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, B PERSISTENCE AS FAITH

“Jesus Son of David, have mercy on me … What do you want Me to do for you? … Master, let me see again” (Mark 10: 47, 51, 52)     

As we celebrate the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time in the Second Cycle (or Cycle B), we encounter the story of Jesus and the blind Bartimaeus on His way to Jerusalem. We have to remember that Jesus is still on His way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. He knows what awaits Him there, which explains why He has repeatedly explained to His disciples what His Kingdom is all about and what it means to be His disciple. We have seen how difficult and slow the disciples have been at understanding this novel concept of a dying Messiah. Today, Jesus is leaving Jericho and proceeding down south towards Jerusalem. On His Way Jesus is approached by a bind beggar by name Bartimaeus, meaning “Son of Timeaus.” The gift of sight is perhaps the most important of the five senses. The blind lives in a dark black world, not able to see and appreciate beauty and colours. He is helpless, prone to dangers and accidents; and very vulnerable. He is most of the time abandoned, alone, friendless, wretched and poor. His world is better imagined than experienced. This helps us to understand the desperation and determination of Bartimaeus at knowing Jesus was passing by.

But how did he know that was Jesus? Someone, who cared a bit more must have told him about Jesus and what Jesus was capable of doing before now. This for me, is the first challenge of this story: that each of us is called to care a bit more and to love a bit more to tell someone about Jesus. Last week we celebrated “Mission Sunday” when we were reminded of the mission and purpose of the Church as enunciated in Matthew 28: 19, “Go, make disciples of all nations.” We have been “sent out” to evangelise, to teach and to bring men back to God, our Creator, through faith in Jesus Christ His Son. Like Bartimaeus there are many in our world today, who are blind and need to “see again.” They are not far away, they are very close to us, if only we ourselves are not too “blind” to see them. So then, let the prayer of Bartimaeus be our prayer today: “Master, let me see again” (Mark 10: 52).

The story of the healing of Bartimaeus is a very inspiring one. As I just pointed out, someone must have told him about Jesus to arouse such profound faith that was so stubborn and persistent. Truly, as St. Paul states: “faith comes through hearing” (Romans 10: 17). St. Mark narrates thus: “When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me’” (Mark 47-48). What could make a “blind beggar” be so stubborn and bold to his possible benefactors? He sure knew there was someone who could change his story; One Who had the power to lift him from the darkness of his blindness to experience God’s wonderful light in the beauty of His creation. Therefore, nothing could stop nor deter him. His resilience was invigorated to persistence by the scolding of the healthy around him.

Then “Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here’” (Mark 10: 49). Do you think it was the physical voice that Jesus heard? I dare to differ! Imagine the crowd that would have followed Jesus, think of the number of people who “shouted and scolded him to be quiet.” Would the voice of one beggar overwhelm those? There was a spiritual communication between Bartimaeus and Jesus: it was his faith that attracted Jesus. Jesus heard the desperate cry of a man of faith that is why He “stopped.” This is what happens whenever faith calls or cries aloud – everything stops! Even Jesus would suspend everything to attend to the man/woman of faith. We learn from Bartimaeus today that when we hear discouraging noises, and when everyone around us is disparaging us, all we need is to turn their negativity into burning determination and resilience. In the face of such power, the negative melts and are absorbed by the force of persistence. This is how Mark captures this in the narrative: “So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said, ‘get up; He is calling you’” (Mark 10: 49). Notice that it is the same people who had earlier “scolded and shouted him to be quiet” that are now encouraging him to “get up.” Let Bartimaeus be a strong reminder to us that “Persistence pays.”

“What do you want Me to do for you?” This is typical of Jesus: to ask a begging question. Remember the man by the Pool of Bethesda (John 5: 1-15), Jesus asked him: “Do you want to be made well?” Jesus does this to invite us to expressly and explicitly state our obvious need. Jesus always wants us to be engaged and be part of the miracle. For there is no miracle without our cooperation. For Bartimaeus the answer was simple and clear: “Master, let me see again” (Mark 10: 51). There is nothing like the experience of a man who loses his sight, it would have been better if he never saw at all. Steven Wonder, the American music icon would always say: “I miss nothing because I have never seen a thing. One does not miss what he has never had.” But the case of Bartimaeus was different because from his appeal, it is obvious that he once was able to see. His pain was much more. So, he had only one prayer: “Master, let me see again.” What would you pray for if Jesus appears before you today and put the same question to you: “What do you want Me to do for you?” Remember last Sunday James and John blew away their privilege by making a selfish, inconsiderate and ambitious request.

“Go; your faith has saved you” (Mark 10: 52). Jesus did not need to touch nor do anything to Bartimaeus, his faith was sufficient. He had demonstrated his enormous faith by his resilience and persistence. By calling Jesus, “Son of David” he had invoked the Messianic power of deliverance articulated by Isaiah in the First Reading (Isaiah 31: 7-9) upon his situation. Having been let loose from the noose of blindness, he follows Jesus, the Ideal High Priest (Hebrew 5: 1-6) shouting with the Psalmist for all to hear: “What marvels the Lord has worked for me! Indeed I am glad” (Psalm 125:3).