Pastor Column: Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 28, 2018
Msgr. Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish
A Hindu poet once described death in a powerful way. “Death is not the extinguishment of the light,” he wrote, but rather “it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” The dawn comes dramatically for the blind Bartimaeus in this weekend’s Gospel. His long night of darkness has finally come to its conclusion, thanks to him taking action and calling out to Jesus rather than waiting for things to happen. His boldness is inspiring for us who look for the light in our daily, personal affairs. Persistence paid off for the blind beggar.
This is the second account of a curing of a blind man relatively close together in Mark’s Gospel. The first was the cure of the man in Bethsaida. His was a gradual healing, requiring two touches by Jesus. Many exegeses have seen in the gradual cure a symbol for the gradual process of understanding and enlightenment on the part of Jesus’ disciples. In contrast to that first cure, the second one features Bartimaeus, one could say “the loud mouth,” the one who could not be silenced, who called out in confidence to Jesus using His Messianic title “Son of David.” Jesus cures him immediately in response to the beggar’s faith. Despite being told by the Lord “to be on your way,” we are told that Bartimeaus “started to follow Jesus on the way.” He clearly symbolizes a disciple who, after coming to know Jesus and who He is, agrees to make Jesus’ way his/her own.
Today’s Gospel clearly articulates the connection between faith and healing. Bartimaeus could be compared to the hemorrhaging woman “whose faith had made her well.” In the Gospel for today, Bartimaeus began his encounter with Jesus with a less-than-perfect understanding of who Jesus was. He was, however, completely confident that Jesus could and would heal him. This is an attitude that Jesus calls faith. He shows his faith to be authentic by his willingness to follow Christ along the way.
Miracles that connect faith with restorative or healing action by Jesus are designed to assist disciples in our struggles with doubt and unbelief. Many times the Lord calls upon unlikely teachers to show us the way: today it is a loud, shouting blind man. Jesus responds to his needs to be whole, and to follow Christ along of the way of discipleship. Who are our unlikely teachers? More often than not, good teachers are also good people. They arouse in us feelings that prompt us to good action. In spite of obstacles they remain hopeful, consciously or unconsciously aware that God’s promises for our good are never broken but always kept. Hope dares to cry out as Bartimaeus did: “Jesus, have pity on me!” There is no doubt, and when its questions are answered and its needs have been satisfied, hope follows Jesus up the road without benefit of a map, GPS, or any kind of directions save that of His presence.