‘I want to see’

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 McLean.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015