Take A Look
by Rev. Jack Peterson, Y.A.
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
As Jesus was leaving Jericho 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.
Sight is definitely something that I take for granted. I just don’t like to think of being unable to see the beauty of a sunset in the hills of Virginia, the smile of a friend as we recount a treasured moment from our past, or a classic work of religious art by Caravaggio. In the Gospel today, Jesus encounters the blind man, Bartimaeus. Let’s journey with Mark the Evangelist and pause to “take a look” at Bartimaeus, Jesus and ourselves.
St. Mark notes that Bartimaeus “sat” by the roadside begging for alms. Rabbis and teachers in Jesus’ day sat down to teach. I think that Mark adds this detail intentionally because he wants us to learn from the blind beggar.
Bartimaeus cries out in his great need, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” He loudly, intentionally and trustingly begs the Lord to hear him and look upon him with mercy. Additionally, Bartimaeus perseveres in his effort to come before the Lord. He ignores the rebuke from many in the crowd to be quiet and not bother Jesus as the Master journeys through the ancient city of Jericho. Instead, “He kept calling out all the more … ” When the Lord asked what he can do for him, Bartimaeus responded without hesitation, “Master, I want to see.” He was well aware of his great need and quite willing to lay it at Jesus’ feet.
Now, let’s turn our gaze to Jesus. Our blessed Lord also ignores “the many” who rebuke the poor beggar. Jesus “sees” a need, a dignity and an expression of genuine faith that leads him to fully engage a suffering soul. Our precious Lord stops his journey, calls Bartimaeus to come close, and proposes a very generous question, “What do you want me to do for you?” As a result of this encounter, the Lord proceeds to open Bartimaeus’ eyes and restore his sight in a marvelous act of healing love.
Finally, let's take an honest look at ourselves. St. Mark is positing that we are all blind in one way or another. Perhaps, I am blind to God ad his marvelous deeds throughout history and throughout my life. Perhaps, I am blind to the needs of my family members, my neighbor in distress, my co-worker or my classmate in school. Perhaps, I am blind t my own weaknesses and always justify my actins while being quick to point out the faults of everyone around me.
In the end, it is true: we can learn so much from Bartimaeus. Am I able to ignore the voices around me that say, “You are not worthy to come before Jesus” and “God could not possibly care about you in your brokenness?” Do I persevere in my effort to come into Christ’s presence and experience his redeeming love and saving truth? Where do I turn in my great need? Do I turn in unhealthy ways to alcohol, food, sleep, video games, pornography or premarital sex to dull the pain and bring shallow, temporary relief to my life’s trials? We learn from Bartimaeus that Jesus has the answer to our greatest needs; he is the One who can restore joy to my soul and lead me to the fullness of life.
If Jesus were to enter my world today, look me in the eye and ask, “What do you want me to do for you?” how would I respond?