Lectionary #149, Gospel: Mark 10: 46-52
The first reading this Sunday gives the people of Israel a reason to rejoice and place a renewed sense of hope in the Lord, as he proclaims through the prophet Jeremiah: “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” (Jeremiah 31:8). These words have a particular resonance as they reveal that even the blind and the lame would experience the redemption and healing that the Lord would bring.
From a biblical perspective this gracious blessing was unexpected since from the time of King David the blind and the lame were regarded by many as deserving the burden of their suffering. An example of just such an attitude can be found in the gospel of John when a man born blind brings the disciples themselves to ask Jesus “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).
In a tragic episode in the life of David we see at least part of the origin for such contempt for the blind and the lame: after he was mocked by some opponents as being so weak that even the blind and the lame could defeat him David went on to capture his objective, Jerusalem, and then swore “The lame and the blind shall be the personal enemies of David” (2 Sam 5:6-8).
Turning from this lamentable moment of bitterness and vengeance—one which is perhaps repeated in each of our lives through the secret thoughts of our hearts—we find some resolution in the gospel account of Jesus and his encounter with the blind beggar Bartimaeus. Lying by the roadside Bartimaeus invokes the name of David in crying out: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me”! When Jesus responded “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus gives the obvious answer “Master, I want to see!” and Jesus tells him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Our faith teaches us that we find redemptive meaning in human suffering when we unite it to the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. The blind Bartimaeus seems to have been able to find hope in the midst of his deep suffering even prior to the full revelation of the Lord which would eventually be manifested through Christ’s death and resurrection. Bartimaeus enunciates faith in God’s promise to the “Son of David”, perceiving in Jesus the perfection of God’s pledge of salvation for Israel which was forecast in a partial and flawed way in David himself.
Bartimaeus clearly realizes that he is in the presence of someone much greater than David (cf. Matthew 12:42), since he asks Jesus to heal him of blindness, something that David himself never did. When he is healed, Jesus specifically says to him your faith has saved you. In other words, Bartimaeus was hoping for a physical remedy, but he received much more.
When we encounter suffering in the midst of our humanity, and cry out to the “Son of David” for healing, we must be open to a healing that goes beyond the physical (perhaps not including the dimension of the physical) and penetrates to the spiritual level—the level of faith. This level includes all those things that need to be healed that well up within us in the form of bitterness or a desire for revenge on our foes, just as David sought revenge against his perceived foes. Refusing to be caught up like David in this kind of bitterness and opening ourselves to Christ’s renewal heals us of our spiritual blindness and woundedness and gathers us into the joyful company of the redeemed of whom Jeremiah spoke—all made whole in the Son of David.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.