30th Sun [B] 1997

Fr. Charles Irvin

Jeremiah 31:7-9; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52

In the Gospels, whenever we are presented with the healings of Jesus we must see them as signs of the coming of God’s Kingdom amongst us. They are signs of God’s presence in our lives; they point to the presence of God among us in Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God-with-us.

The problem is: Can we see? Or are we in a kind of spiritual blindness? We must be clear about this. The opening of one’s eyes is directly connected to the opening of one’s mind. Seeing is a way not only into a person’s mind, but also into a person’s soul. It eventually leads to seeing reality, seeing things, and seeing life as God sees them. Seeing with the body’s eyes is necessary for seeing with the eyes of the soul. And the reverse is likewise true, seeing with one’s soul allows us to see with one’s eyes — artists have always known that.

Earlier in the Gospel of Mark, the one we’re reading this year, we came across another healing of a blind man. Recall, however, that this previous healing was gradual (the only gradual healing recorded in all of the Gospels). The suggestion was that we are slow to see, and consequently slow in understanding. Here the healing is immediate, and Bartimaeus promptly becomes a disciple of Jesus. Bartimaeus is also the first person to address Jesus as “Son of David”, a title reserved only for the expected Messiah.

Perhaps Bartimaeus sees promptly, clearly and simply because he knew he needed vision. This is all in contrast to the glory-seeking found in the other disciples of Jesus reported in last Sunday’s gospel account. Jesus asked James and John last Sunday exactly the same question he asks Bartimaeus in today’s Gospel account, but the response given by Bartimaeus today is a response filled with purity, clarity and directness. Bartimaeus sees; others are slow to see — or see only on the surface, see only superficially.

Something else about Bartimaeus. He evidently believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Light of the World, that light in which we can see things as God sees them. Recognizing Jesus, Bartimaeus first asks for mercy, THEN asks that he might have vision. As always, spiritual healing occurs before physical healing. And without spiritual healing there is no physical healing. It’s all a matter of priorities and recognizing first things, what first needs to be done before other things can result.

Additionally, we need to pay attention to the reaction on the part of the crowd — they tried to keep Bartimaeus down, to hush him up, keep him quiet and keep him away from Jesus. Their motives were probably as varied as the number of them trying to keep Bartimaeus down. But they nevertheless reveal a human tendency to keep underdogs down, to keep the unfortunate out of our game, out of our face, and away from making us feel guilty when they are around. We just want beggars to go away.

Also, it has been my experience as a priest to see what happens to souls when they try to throw off their former ways of living and get close to God. I’ve watched many an adult convert to the Church suffer at the hands of members of their families and friends who try to keep them away from converting, keep them away from Holy Communion, keep them away from going to confession, keep them away from all we have as Catholics that put us next to Christ and allow us to see him more clearly. It happens; it happens more often that you might think. As souls move closer to God they are hassled by the Evil One. Their dreams are fitful and disturbed, their friends are intrusive and questioning, they feel rejection even from their families. Oh, that’s not always the case , of course, but I am not surprised by the frequency with which it happens. And I always think of today’s Gospel account when it does happen.

The Gospel account presents us with another additional consideration. And that is this: To what extent do the voices in the world around us keep us from crying out to Jesus? To what extent does the world around us tell us not to pay attention to Jesus, not to seek him, not to ask him for his healing forgiveness and tender mercies? There are a lot in the crowd who tell us, as the crowd told Bartimaeus, not to bother — to keep away from Church, from Holy Communion, and from religion.

We need to be bold, at least as bold as blind Bartimaeus. We need to ignore the voices of the world around us, go to Jesus Christ, cry out for his mercy, and seek his healing. For if we think we see everything and know everything and see all that there is to see, we are to be pitied. We are more blind than we realize because the eyes of our souls are without vision and we live in spiritual darkness.

May you and I have the faith of Bartimaeus, have his boldness, and end up with his vision, too.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”