Thus says the Lord: Shout with joy for Jacob, exult at the head of the nations; proclaim your praise and say: The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. For I am a father to Israel, Ephraim is my first-born.(P) The word of the Lord.
When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing. (R)
Then they said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them." The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad indeed. (R)
Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the torrents in the southern desert. Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing. (R)
Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves. (R)
Brothers and sisters: Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: You are my son: this day I have begotten you; just as he says in another place: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.(P) The word of the Lord.
As Jesus was leaving Jerecho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me." And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me." Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you." He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see." Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and home to three of the world's major religious traditions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is an important place in both past and present Jewish history. It is believed to have been built on the very mountain where Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac but was prevented by God from actually occurring. The Second Book of Samuel states that after the Jews fled Egyptian enslavement and returned to Israel, about 1000 years before Christ, King David conquered Jerusalem and made it the capital of the Jewish nation, Samuel (5:9). His son, Solomon, built thereafter the First Temple to worship Yahweh, the God of Israel. Since then, the heads of all the Israelite households were enjoined to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate three major festivals - Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, Exodus (23:17, 34:23); Deuteronomy (16:16).
According to the gospel of Luke, the infant Jesus was taken by His parents for the first time to the Temple in Jerusalem for dedication, Luke (2:22-24). Then, at the age of twelve, He accompanied His parents to the Temple for the Passover Feast. As a matter of fact, His parents used to go to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of Passover, Luke (2:41-42). We do not know from the gospels the number of occasions Jesus had been to Jerusalem and to the Temple, before the beginning of his public ministry. We can assume that, as he came of age as a devout Jew, He was faithful to visit the Temple every year as the law required, Exodus (34:23).
From today's gospel, we learn that Jesus was making his final journey to Jerusalem through a town called Jericho. Jericho is described in the Hebrew Bible as the "City of Palm Trees". It is about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem near the Jordan River, and is known as one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. It was also the first town that the Israelites conquered when they arrived in Canaan, the Promised Land, after their escape from Egypt about 1,400 years before Christ. Today, Jericho is located within the Palestinian territory known as the West Bank.
Going back to today's text, as Jesus and His disciples continued by way of Jericho, a blind man by the name of Bartimaeus called out, saying, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me", even though he had never met Jesus personally, Mark (10:47). In ancient times, blindness was widespread because of various diseases and sanitary conditions: the blind people or visually impaired in some way could be readily seen in market places, public squares and at worship sites. During the time of Jesus, there must have been thousands of blind people throughout Palestine. Because of their physical condition, they were prevented from performing any job in order to earn a living.
So, most of them depended on the charity of others, and Bartimaeus was one of them. He spent his days on the side of the busy road between Jericho and Jerusalem, begging for food and money. One day, as he was sitting by the roadside begging, he heard that Jesus was passing by and cried out to Him. For sure, he must have heard about all the miracles that Jesus had performed, such as healing of the sick and the lepers, casting out demons, raising the dead and so on. Most especially, he must have heard what Jesus had done to the other blind men and how they received their sight. Now that Jesus was in his place, he did not want to waste the one opportunity to be healed.
Having heard Bartimaeus cry out to Jesus, many people tried to silence the former. Mark did not indicate whether the "many" were Jesus' disciples or bystanders or travelers. Whoever they were, they might have thought that Jesus was too important a person to be bothered by a beggar or someone who is completely unimportant or insignificant. But Bartimaeus did not listen to them. He knew his desperate need and, more so, knew that Jesus was the only one who could heal him. So, the more they tried to silence him, the louder he shouted. His crying out may remind us of the story we read a few weeks ago about a Syrophoenician woman who wanted Jesus to free her daughter of an unclean spirit and refused to take no for an answer even after being referred to as a "dog", Mark (7:24-30).
Bartimaeus' persistence paid off in the end: Jesus had called him over. And the same crowd that was trying to silence Bartimaeus a few minutes earlier urged him to "take courage, and get up, and go to Jesus", as if he was lacking courage. In fact, he had already demonstrated courage in crying out to Jesus, despite others hushing him up. No sooner did Bartimaeus hear that Jesus was calling him, he enthusiastically, "threw his cloak away, sprang up and came to Jesus", Mark (10:50). It is worth noting Bartimaeus' sacrifice and renunciation. He was poor, needy, blind and helpless. As a beggar, he might not have owned much more than the cloth which he had laid on the ground to receive the coins and food given to him as alms. But even then, he threw away his sole object of livelihood and went to Jesus. Jesus then asked Bartimaeus what he wanted Him to "do" for him, Mark (10:51).
Jesus Christ is the Omniscient God. He knew exactly what Bartimaeus needed. He did not need to be told that Bartimaeus needed his sight restored; yet, Jesus wanted to know what Bartimaeus wanted Him to do for him. Jesus often asked similar intriguing questions to those who came to Him for healing. He questioned those desiring healing, prompting them to express their need and faith in words so that, in a fuller exercise of faith, they would be prepared to receive the desired blessing.
For example, Jesus asked two blind men whether they believed He could give them their sight, Matthew (9:28). On another occasion, Jesus asked a crippled man if he wanted to be cured, even though he had indicated that he wanted to be healed, John (5:6). In like manner, Jesus knew that Bartimaeus was not asking for alms, but for healing of his blindness; yet, He left it up to him to express his need once again. And he asked Jesus to give him sight, a request that stands in marked contrast to the disciples, James and John, who wanted position, power and authority from Jesus as we read in last week's gospel.
Responding to Jesus' question, Bartimaeus answered by addressing Jesus in a more reverential form as his Master. He said, "Master, I want to see". The Aramaic word, "Rabbouni" is translated "master" in one version and "lord" in another version. It shows that Bartimaeus came to Jesus in faith and, with reverence asked to be able to see. Jesus then informed him that he could get on with his life, for his faith had saved him. There was not much of an exchange nor any elaborate healing like that which Jesus had done previously for another blind man at Bethsaida. In that story, Jesus had taken the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village; spat on the man's eyes and put his hands on him; and finally asked him if he could see anything, Mark (8: 22-26). The cure was progressive or gradual rather than instantaneous as in Bartimaeus' healing.
Mark states that Bartimaeus "immediately received his sight and followed Jesus along the road", Mark (10:52). It shows that Bartimaeus instantly gained not only his sight so he could see Jesus but also an insight into who Jesus was. Thereafter, when Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he went with Him. Here it is important to point out that Bartimaeus was not the first or the only person who approached Jesus in faith and reverence for healing, but he was the only one who ended up following Him, presumably even witnessed Jesus carrying the cross to Calvary. He followed Jesus "on the way" is an expression that means not only "on the road leading up to Jerusalem" but also means "on the way of discipleship, the way of suffering, death and rising".
What lessons does this story offer us?
Bartimaeus is a good portrait of every person who needs healing of both physical blindness and spiritual blindness. Saint Paul writes that spiritual blindness is a grievous condition experienced by those who do not believe in God, Jesus Christ, and His Word, Roman (2:8); 2 Thessalonians (2:12). Whatsoever we are - physically blind or spiritually blind - we are just as important to our Lord Jesus as Bartimaeus was. Hence, if we are persistent in our cry for help, He will drop everything to give us the same level of attention, love and compassionate care as He gave to Bartimaeus; He will never ignore our cry or disregard our tears.
Bartimaeus made good use of the once-in-a- lifetime chance to appeal for Jesus' attention by asking for His mercy. And as a result, Jesus healed and transformed him. In the Eucharistic celebration and through the sacrament of reconciliation, Jesus offers us opportunities to show His grace and gain eternal rewards by doing so. So, we should take advantage of these opportunities to encounter Jesus and receive inexhaustible benefits to our body, soul and social life.
Bartimaeus did not ask for money or for food but for mercy and sight. He asked for the right things and the desperate needs at that particular time in his life. We often tend to ask for the wrong things, mostly worthless material things; and use God's love and mercy to fulfil our own selfish ends and pursue our own selfish desires. Sometimes the things we ask for are not even what is best for us. Today's gospel teaches us that when we go to Jesus, if we are as desperate and as definitive as Bartimaeus, things will certainly happen. The only prerequisite is that we must ask Jesus for the right things with pure motives. Like Bartimaeus, therefore, we must cry out to Jesus for the things that really matter, such as, His mercy, forgiveness, wisdom, guidance, freedom from fear, and peace.
Many people around Bartimaeus tried to hush him up and keep him away from Jesus but he persisted despite hindrances. When we are really in desperate need of help and we begin to cry to Jesus in faith, there may be a whole lot of voices and forces attempting to keep us away from Jesus. Sometimes our society and the culture of the place that we live in may silence or discourage us from expressing our desire for God or seeking God in the midst of our brokenness. In those circumstances especially, we should imitate Bartimaeus. We must not give in to fear nor to intimidation and coercion. We must still cry out to Jesus and pursue Him despite the obstacles on our way.
Bartimaeus was a man of great faith. His confession of faith in Jesus was so short and simple but so true and deep that it "saved him", Mark (10:52). When we call out to Jesus and ask for His help, He does not wait for our correct and perfect recitation of the creed or profession of faith. A mere profession of faith will not save us: what will truly save us involves genuine piety, true faith in Jesus, and a holy life. Therefore, we have only to acknowledge who Jesus is and believe strongly that what He has done in the lives of others, He will do for us; so, we courageously call out to Him. And when we do, we can be certain of salvation, Rom (10:9).
Bartimaeus left behind his only possession, his cloak, to come to Jesus. Renunciation of possessions is a necessary condition for discipleship. Like Bartimaeus, we must let go off the things that hold us back; set aside all inhibitions for the One who will give us life. In fact, we can truly rest assured that Jesus loves us so much that He will do more than what we are asking Him to do.
After receiving his sight, Bartimaeus did not selfishly go on his way but followed Jesus. What he did was the proper response to grace. He showed his gratitude to Jesus. When Jesus meet our needs, whatever needs - the physical, mental, social, emotional, financial or spiritual - we should express our gratitude to Him by being His faithful and loyal follower.
God Bless You!