Jesus was a master at creating authentic encounters with
people. Today's Gospel recounts the earthy encounter of Jesus
and the blind man, Bartimeus. Mark the Evangelist fills this
short story with some powerful dialogue that needs to be
pondered. Let's look at a few of the lines that marked this
momentous event in the life of the son of Timeus.
"Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me." One advantage of
being blind is the grace of being painfully aware of your
lack, your need. Blind people must rely upon others in a
number of concrete, definitive ways. Any real sickness,
handicap or trial in life makes us starkly aware of the fact
that we are not self-made and self-saved. Illness and
handicaps remind us of our dependence upon God. Hence, they
have the potential to be blessings in disguise. Would
Bartimeus ever have met Jesus if he had not been blind?
Jesus says, "Call him over." Is life all about man's search
for God or God's search for man? It has been said that
philosophy is about man's search for God and the Bible is
about God's search for man. God knows each of us more
intimately than we know ourselves, and He loves us more than
we can ever love ourselves. He desires an intimate
relationship with each of us. So, He invites us to come into
His presence, to find deep healing and to dwell with Him as a
beloved disciple. "Call him over."
Next Jesus proclaims, "You have nothing to fear." Jesus read
into Bartimeus' heart that day and saw his anxiety. Fear can
be so crippling. We are tempted to fear many things: failure,
rejection, abuse or loneliness. The Lord greatly desired to
set this handicapped man at ease. He wanted to calm his fear
in order to be able to create a true encounter with him.
Jesus is, after all, Mighty God and Prince of Peace. He is
Lord of Lords and King of Kings. He has the strength and
power to bring peace to every heart with His healing,
merciful love. "You have nothing to fear."
"What do you want me to do for you?" At times, as a young
man, I thought that perhaps this was an attempt at humor on
Jesus' part. It had to be blatantly obvious what the man
wanted. He wasn't looking for a bike or a slingshot. He was
physically blind. However, I have come to see this as an
enormously important question. We need to know what our real
needs are. We need to know where to go to address them. We
need to come before God as a child, confident that He desires
to take care of us, especially by addressing our most
profound needs. What would you ask of Jesus if He came to
your house today?
"Rabboni, I want to see." There, he said it. He stated his
deep desire to God. And he did it publicly for all to hear.
That takes courage. Jesus had removed his fear.
Now, I am sure that most of us know that Jesus was very
concerned about Bartimeus' inability to see the world around
him - the flowers, the sea and the faces of his family
members. Yet, we also know that Jesus always was more
concerned about deeper spiritual realities. You and I may not
be physically blind, but without Jesus' love and wisdom, we
are all spiritually blind.
We are tempted to stare at false lights that lead us down
paths toward selfish ways that can suck the life out of us;
false lights that present lies and half-truths that lure us
away from God; false lights that offer empty promises and
leave us unbearably unfulfilled. Jesus desires to open our
eyes to the remarkable realities of His goodness and truth
that bring joy. He seeks to reveal to the eyes of faith
eternal truths about God the Father that heal hearts, renew
life and make the heart sing with gratitude. The Divine
Physician longs to shed light on the Gospel way of life that
fulfills the deepest longings of the human heart. "Rabboni, I
want to see."
We can learn so much from the blind man, Bartimeus. We can
learn to cry out to the only one who can truly heal our
brokenness: "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me." We can
grasp that God spends our lifetime coming after us like the
hound of heaven: "Call him over." We can confidently approach
the one who has the strength and love needed to take away our
anxieties: "You have nothing to fear." We can be invited to
ponder our truest needs and bring them before the giver of
every good gift: "What do you want me to do for you?"
Finally, we can learn that we are all spiritually blind and
will never see life as it really is or the great mysteries
that He longs to reveal to us without His assistance:
"Rabboni, I want to see."
Fr. Peterson is assistant chaplain at Marymount University in
Arlington and director of the Youth Apostles Institute in