Pastor’s Column October 27-28, 2018
"But he kept calling out all the more, 'Son of David, have pity on me."
In our Gospel reading this weekend, Jesus and his disciples continue their journey toward Jerusalem where Jesus would celebrate his final Passover meal with them before himself becoming that meal by sacrificing his Body and Blood upon the Cross. Their path takes them through Jericho, which is only about fifteen miles from their destination. So as they leave that city, the crowd and excitement surrounding Jesus continue to build, and along the way they encounter a blind man named Bartimaeus who is sitting by the roadside begging. Hearing that it is Jesus who is passing by, Bartimaeus cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” And when the crowd tries to silence him, the blind man continues to shout out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stops and calls for the blind man to be brought to him. St. Mark says of the blind man, “He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.” Jesus then asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” And after the blind man asks to see, Jesus responds, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” And St. Mark tells us, “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.”
As amazing as this miraculous healing of the blind man might be, this story has even more important implications for all of us. First, it shows us the importance of our faith. How do we know Bartimaeus was a man of faith? He recognizes Jesus as the Son of David, a title which means Bartimaeus accepts Jesus as the Messiah. And his simple prayer of humility, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me,” is a great model for us all. We need to have that same disposition of humility before Jesus. We also must accept him as the Lord of our life and put our trust in him. We have to learn how to adapt our will to his will because he knows what is best for us. Second, this story shows us the importance of persistence, perseverance and courage in our prayer and in giving witness to Jesus. Bartimaeus does not allow himself to be discouraged or dissuaded by the rebuke of the crowd telling him to be silent. Instead, he keeps calling out all the more. We, too, must persevere and be steadfast in the face of adversity. We cannot allow ourselves to be intimidated by the crowd or to give in to the peer pressure of those who do not share our faith and our beliefs. As Election Day approaches, we must be willing to give voice to our faith, belief and values, despite the scorn and ridicule of a secular society that would like to silence us and eliminate all forms of faith from the public sphere.
Third, when Jesus calls for Bartimaeus, the blind man is ready to listen and respond. The crowd says to Bartimaeus, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” And right away, St. Mark tells us, Bartimaeus “threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.” Bartimaeus’ cloak was his most prized material possession. He would have used it to collect alms and to sleep in at night. By getting rid of it, Bartimaeus shows a willingness to give up anything that might be an obstacle to meeting Jesus or hinder his relationship with him. Bartimaeus’ response to the call of Jesus was immediate and eager. He does not delay his decision but acts right away. Our tendency to procrastinate and to cling to familiar things or unhealthy habits can cause us to miss our opportunity to encounter the Lord. We need to be ready to seize the moment and act. Close your eyes and listen to Jesus ask you the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Ask him to heal whatever it is that prevents you from giving yourself totally to him and then, like Bartimaeus, follow Jesus on his way.
– Fr. Bob