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Sunday Scripture: The ideal response of Bartimaeus

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

By Father Timothy Schehr

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Jeremiah 31:7-9; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52

The Gospel reading for each Sunday this October introduces us to people who came to Jesus with questions. The Pharisees were looking for loopholes in God’s plan for us; a wealthy man wanted to know if he was already qualified for eternal life; last week the sons of Zebedee wanted the highest honors in the Lord’s kingdom. This Sunday we hear still another request of the Lord. But this time the request is just right.

As the Gospel begins we hear about a man named Bartimaeus sitting at the side of the road begging for donations from the people passing by. When he learns that Jesus is among those in the crowd, he shouts for Jesus to have pity on him.

Surprisingly many in the crowd want to silence Bartimaeus. Did they think he wanted only some donation from Jesus? If so, they did not want Jesus to be bothered with any mundane requests.

But if they were listening carefully to what the blind man said,they would realize they had nothing to worry about. Bartimaeus is the first in Mark’s Gospel to refer to Jesus as “son of David.” It is a good sign. It means this blind man already sees that Jesus belongs to the royal house of Israel.

It may also mean that Bartimaeus already believes Jesus is the perfect king Israel had always been looking for — the Messiah. And what kind of request would you make of the Messiah?

So Bartimaeus will not be embarrassed into silence; he keeps shouting out his request until Jesus stops and calls him over. Then Bartimaeus does something else that sets him apart from so many others. He throws his cloak aside. That cloak was important to him. It was the garment that kept him warm at night and the garment he collected coins in. But apparently Bartimaeus believes he will not be needing that cloak anymore. He jumps to his feet and comes to Jesus. Bartimaeus shows us the ideal response to the Lord — drawing near as quickly as we can.

But there is still something more about Bartimaeus that should impress us. When Jesus asks what he wants from Him, Bartimaeus replies that he wants to see. It seems Jesus wanted the crowd to hear this. It is the same request any one of them could have made. They all needed to see, as Bartimaeus already did, that Jesus was the Messiah. This is what the sons of Zebedee should have asked for.

Jesus sees the faith that Bartimaeus carries within his heart. Bartimaeus becomes a model of faith for all the rest. He can now see spiritually and physically. And everyone standing around him should want the same.

There is still one more spiritual lesson from the healing of Bartimaeus. Mark tells us he followed Jesus on the way. The next chapters of Mark record the Lord’s passion and death. It seems Bartimaeus was strong enough to remain with the Lord even in those difficult final days.

Jeremiah looked forward to the day God would gather a blind people back to the path of life. The prophet would certainly have regarded the healing of Bartimaeus as a sign that day had arrived.

Bartimaeus has a spiritual descendant in the author of Hebrews who certainly sees spiritually as he explains to us that Jesus is the perfect high priest fulfilling His Father’s glorious plan of salvation.

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