30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today's first reading from the prophet, Jeremiah celebrates the deliverance of Israel from exile and proclaims that it is only God who could bring them home and save them from displacement, loss, and alienation at the hands of their enemies. This joyful homecoming “will gather them from the ends of the world with the blind and the lame in their midst.” It is really no surprise that the Gospel reading today presents the story of the blind man, Bartimaeus.
Mark’s Gospel is all about discipleship, and although we know little about Bartimaeus, he certainly knew a lot about being a disciple. This man possessed the courage to ask for help, and his cry was both personal and persistent: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” He may have been blind, but he was perceptive, clear, and focused. When he heard that Jesus was passing by, he was not about to miss the chance to be restored and healed. He may have lost his sight but not his hope.
Even when those in the crowd ridiculed him and demanded he be silent, he displayed a faith that “speaks up” and takes the initiative which eventually leads to his healing. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of fear, and courage allowed Bartimaeus to put aside the fear of what others might think of him. His faith birthed the courage that compelled him to throw off the cloak that was vital to his survival and present himself to Jesus. This cloak was the bed he slept on, the “coat” that kept him warm and the place people tossed coins on as they passed him daily in the street. In reality, it was his “security blanket.” Yet, he did not think twice about letting it go.
Being a disciple of Jesus is a challenge. Bartimaeus showed himself to be a man of deep faith, great courage, and unbridled hope –traits a true disciple must pray to possess. He is also a reminder that there is something within each of us that only God’s grace can heal. His faith, courage, and hope challenge us each to reflect: What “cloak” do I possess that I need to throw aside in order to be free, happy, and joyful? Where must I be healed? It is important to note that once Jesus heals Bartimaeus, he does not say “Come follow me” but instead says “Go your way.” This humble blind man teaches us that discipleship is a choice that we make daily, not simply a decision we make once. Jesus left Bartimaeus free to choose to follow him, and he made the decision to do so. He gives us each the same freedom to do the same.
Sr. Diane Forrest, OP