I want to take us into the Gospel Reading using our imagination in the manner taught by St Ignatius Loyola.
I invite you to personalise the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46b-52 as we seek the ministry of the Holy Spirit to do what he is always ready to do - make Our Lord real for us today. So, come Holy Spirit, touch our minds and hearts as we read through this sacred text. It may help to follow me on the pew sheet.
Look at verse 46: ‘They came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging’. ['Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging.NRSV]
A few notes on the context:
1) Holy Land Geography meant Galileans coming to Jerusalem Feasts came through Jericho to avoid Samaria
2) Jesus approaches his Passion. Of the 20 pages say of Mark's Gospel 10 are about Holy Week & Jesus' suffering, death & resurrection. Chapters 10 set the scene for Chs. 11-16. This chapter of St. Mark is the last word before Palm Sunday
3) The large crowd were no doubt drawn not just to Jerusalem for Passover Feast but drawn to travel with Jesus to Jerusalem.
4) The preoccupation of Jesus with his coming Passion..the last few days of teaching before His saving action...the pressing in of the crowd..in all of this Jesus is open to the Spirit drawing him to stop and give his all to one needy person...Bartimaeus son of Timaeus.
Wonder at the availability of the God Jesus shows us...Earlier this month we heard that the first moon outside our solar system, a gas giant the size of Neptune, may have been discovered...wonder at the immensity of it all... He made all of this yet He listens to my heartbeat… the attentiveness and availability of God in Christ!
Read v47-48 second paragraph ‘And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me’. ['When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"']
1) Faith is a virtue and a gift. Some people find the virtue of faith easier than others by nature and temperament.
We can all ask for faith and those who are asking for faith always receive and their faith grows.
Bartimaeus was given a special gift of faith to recognise Jesus as who He was, the 'Son of David', the Messiah, the One promised in the Old Testament who would bring in God's rule over all evil. The One Isaiah said would 'open the eyes of the blind'. In our Old Testament reading Jeremiah promises God’s special care for the blind.The healing of the blind in Chapter 10 of Mark's Gospel comes just before the account of the Lord's Passion, as if to say "the Messiah, the One who is promised to be an opener of the eyes of the blind has come. Now see in the account of His Passion what he is prepared to do for you and for me!"
Fr. Hebert of Kelham wrote of this Gospel passage, "I am Bartimaeus and hear the Lord passing by on the way to the Cross, but because of the dullness of my blinded sight, I do not know what it means..so I cry to Him for light".
The Creed says Jesus is God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God and Jesus is as available to you and me as he was to Bartimaeus. Only unbelief pretends this is not so...
2) 'Have mercy on me' Bartimaeus cries. Would that be my prayer before Jesus today? It is a frequent bidding in our liturgy. We call out for mercy half a dozen or so times in the Mass: in the Kyries of course, then in the middle of the Gloria, in the Agnus Dei and its implied when we say the ‘Lord I am not worthy’.
The prayer of the lips has to become the prayer of the heart. Only when I admit my need for God deep down can He fill me deep down - however many times I pray with my lips!
3) Note the determination and persistence shown by Bartimaeus. One commentator on this Gospel says, 'Jesus is halted by the impassioned cry of need characterised by determination, definiteness and faith'. In other words Bartimaeus was not messing around with the Lord He meant business.Have you got business with God this morning? Facing Jesus means facing myself and all that falls short in my life, my relationships, my sin...'Square with God and He will square with you'. It's a deal and it takes courage to lay all our soiled cards on the table before the Lord. Yet the Lord has deep compassion. Our sins are but dust before Him.
Read v49-52 last paragraph: ‘And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.
['Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see." "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.]
1) Notice the eagerness and openness in that action of throwing off the cloak. Much of Christian discipleship is a matter of 'throwing off the cloak'. Facing God, letting God into areas of our life he knows full well about but needs our permission to deal with. He respects our privacy though as God he sees right through us. It's up to us not him to reveal ourselves, to cast off our cloak bit by bit for the healing work of the divine mercy.
2) Jesus said to him, 'What do you want me to do for you?'
What - a blind beggar in front of him and Jesus asks 'What do you want me to do for you?'?
It's conceivable Bartimaeus as a beggar saw Jesus as rich enough to reward him well if he heard him calling. On that theory Jesus in this testing question might have been making a final check on whether Bartimaeus really wanted to lose his blindness - it was after all a source of income. If he wanted to be healed he must be prepared to face the consequences earning his own keep rather than begging.Thinking more widely it helps to look at the whole of Mark Chapter 10 since, as we learned last week, Jesus asks exactly the same question of his two apostles James and John, 'What do you want me to do for you?' They answer 'Give us important posts'. Bartimaeus answers, 'help me to see more clearly'.
In the Old Testament God offered King Solomon wisdom or riches. Because Solomon chose wisdom God rewarded him with both. James and John asked for privileges and were humbled by Jesus. Bartimaeus asked for mercy and for sight and he was granted it.
The fact that Bartimaeus followed Jesus shows his cure was not just physical healing but a deeper work. His inner eyes were opened to the reality of God in Jesus just as his outer eyes were opened to the world around him in all its beauty. Bartimaeus gained access to a greater beauty than physical sight can show us, the beauty of Jesus in his fullness as Lord and Saviour.
So we come back to this Gospel passage. It was written nearly 2000 years ago about Bartimaeus and Jesus. As we welcome the Holy Spirit we see this Scripture to be really about God and I.
I am Bartimaeus in need of sight and light on my life's journey.
I am Bartimaeus persistent in prayer, determined to get what God wants for me.
I am Bartimaeus ready to throw off the cloak of pretentiousness and open my life to the Lord.
And if I am Bartimaeus Jesus is the Son of God, the same yesterday, today and always.
He is present right now as he was in Jericho and is willing and capable of flooding my soul with Light, Glorious Light.
He has a way forward for me, a reason and purpose for all who will welcome Him this morning.
Let us keep silence for a moment before him...
Lord Jesus, we believe You are here as you were in Jericho long ago.
We want to spring into Your presence like Bartimaeus.
We are casting off our cloaks now before You.
Touch our inner eyes that we may see things as they really are.
Open our eyes to the reality of Your presence with us and our great need of Your mercy.
Make us ready to follow you as You summon us to go with you.
Bless us as we turn to you, O Christ, with all the expectancy of Bartimaeus!
Jesus, bringer of Sight and Light, have mercy upon us in Your great Compassion!