The story of the curing of Blind Bartimaeus in today’s Gospel is so vividly drawn by St Mark in his Gospel that we can see the scene unfolding before our very eyes. We can quite easily bring up an image in our mind of this blind man sitting on his cloak at the side of the road begging for alms. In our mind’s eye we can also see him spring up to call out to Jesus using the messianic title ‘Son of David.’
We can also imagine the crowd scolding the blind man and telling him to keep quiet. Actually this little point is interesting and demonstrates how fickle a crowd can be. Often we see in the Gospels how the crowd wanted to see miracles particularly of healing and how they would usually push sick people forward to Jesus for healing.
But on this occasion for some reason they hold the blind man back, not seeming to want him to be healed. Maybe there were just so many blind people around that they took his blindness for granted and didn’t think he needed healing.
Normally in the Gospels we don’t hear the names of those who were healed by Jesus but here Mark makes quite sure to tell us that it was Bartimaeus. This could be because Bartimaeus was already a well-known figure, which is a bit unlikely, or more probably because he later became an important figure in the Early Church and would therefore be known to Mark’s readers.
What we are dealing with here is a story of discipleship and if Bartimaeus truly became a disciple then he certainly would have been an important figure in the newly formed Church being someone who was actually cured by Jesus.
Interestingly although we are talking about discipleship nowhere does Jesus actually say to Bartimaeus the words, ‘Follow me’. Nevertheless Bartimaeus spontaneously follows Jesus along the road. It is as if the healing itself was an explicit call to discipleship.
Another little detail in the story comes in the words, ‘throwing off his cloak.’ It was very common for a beggar to wear a large cloak and while they might be actually wearing the cloak most of it would have been spread around them so that they could catch in it the coins dropped to them by passers-by.
But here in this story Bartimaeus throws off the cloak as a sign that he has given up his former role as a beggar, even perhaps leaving a few coins on the ground.
The vocabulary in this text is also interesting. It is very strong. Bartimaeus ‘shouts’, he is ‘scolded’, then he ‘throws off’ his cloak and he ‘jumps’ up. And his sight returns ‘immediately’ and he ‘straight away’ takes after Jesus along the road.
There is no ambiguity here. Bartimaeus doesn’t get up; no, he jumps up. It is as if he was waiting all his life for this moment and the people trying to hold him back prove to be no obstacle to him.
The words are strong, the actions are positive and there is absolutely no ambiguity about what is happening here. It is a well-crafted account of a wonderful healing.
Of course, the most important thing about the story is that it involves the restoration of sight. In the Gospels sight is a very important concept since it is a sign of the insight a disciple has into the Gospel of Jesus.
This sight, or insight, is something that each of us needs to acquire. We want Jesus to open our eyes to the secrets of the Gospel, to the message of eternal life. In the scriptures to see is to understand and here in the story of Bartimaeus his healing comes about because he understands who Jesus is. The title that he gives Jesus is Son of David which was a title at that time commonly understood to mean the Messiah.
Bartimaeus’ eagerness to jump up and follow Jesus is the best indication you could get that he has accepted Jesus teaching and chooses to follow him as a disciple.
One would have to conclude that this was not the first time that Bartimaeus had come across Jesus. Either he had heard Jesus’ teaching already or he had heard someone else explaining what Jesus was telling the people. In order for him to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah he would certainly have to have known something about him beforehand.
I suppose that sitting there by the side of the road all day also meant that Bartimaeus had plenty of time to think about things. He surely had the time to reflect deeply on the message of Jesus and come to the conclusion that he was the Messiah and someone who was really worth following.
Then Bartimaeus leaves his former life and follows Jesus. We don’t hear about him anywhere else in the scriptures so this following of Jesus cannot have meant him literally following Jesus around for the next year or so. But certainly it meant he joined the crowd that went around listening to Jesus as he preached and healed in that immediate neighborhood.
Probably when Jesus left the district Bartimaeus stayed at home but he would do so as a changed man, as someone with a new way of life, as someone with a completely different motivating force in his life.
We should see Bartimaeus as a parable of discipleship. He is blind, he cannot see, he is dependent on the generosity of others. But once he encounters Jesus he finds sight and with it freedom. Now he can move around independently, now he can earn his own living, now he has acquired insight into the meaning and purpose of life. In short, he is a completely new man.
The same thing happens to us when we accept the Gospel; we rejoice in the fact that we are now liberated and that our life is transformed. We now see the world through different eyes. We have found the Messiah and our lives are filled with meaning and new purpose.
The Gospel has liberated us from our former way of life and we now walk in the light of the Lord.
Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
October 25, 2015
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: A Practical Guide to Understanding the Priesthood
This week I would like to concentrate on the second reading, which I would call the Practical Guide to Understanding the Priesthood.
First of all the reading comes from the Letter to the Hebrews, a lengthy sermon written to shore up the faith of second and third generation Christians of Hebrew ancestry. When the writer begins by mentioning High Priests, he is speaking about two groups of people. He is referring both to the Temple priests of the Old Covenant and Christian bishops and priests, the priests of the New Covenant. He says that every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin.
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 10: 46–52
The curing of a blind man in today’s gospel passage is remarkable for several reasons. First of all, it is quite unusual in the gospels to give a name to the person healed, and this suggests that Bartimaeus was a recognizable member of the early Christian community from which Mark’s gospel came.
Secondly, the blind man refers to Jesus as “son of David,” a clearly Messianic title, but Jesus does not correct him, as he does elsewhere in Mark’s gospel out of concern that he be seen as a political Messiah. No doubt the fact that he has by now made it clear that “the Son of man must suffer greatly” (Mark 8: 31), there is less danger of mistaking him for one who will lead them in a war of liberation against the Romans.
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—October 25, 2015
A blind man insists on crying out to Jesus, getting on everyone’s nerves. How was his vision better than theirs?
Gospel (Read Mk 10:46-52)
As Jesus, His disciples, and “a sizeable crowd” were leaving Jericho (a city about 17 miles northeast of Jerusalem), they encountered a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, sitting by the roadside. The buzz from the crowd told Bartimaeus that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. He began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” This was a very unusual way for a person who didn’t know Jesus to address Him. It was full of Messianic significance. The Jews believed that the Messiah for whom they waited would be a descendant of King David and his rightful heir (see Isa 9:7; Ezek 34:23-24). In addition, Jewish tradition expected the Messiah to heal and exorcise demons, as it was believed that King Solomon once did (see Wis 7:20). So, in one loud cry, the blind beggar identifies Jesus as the One for whom all Jews longed. The crowd wasn’t amused: “And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” This raises two questions: (1) How did Bartimaeus know who Jesus was? (2) Why was the crowd so impatient with him?
A Review of Head and Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family
As the Synod on the Family continues in Rome, Catholic families around the world are refocusing on the importance of transmitting the faith in a vibrant, intentional way at home. At this particular moment in history, spiritual leadership and growth in holiness within the family really demands our attention as sons and daughters of the Church, and as spouses and parents within our families.
If there is one thing I’ve discovered as a Catholic wife and mother of six children, it’s this: there are no prescriptions for holiness.