Reflection on the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
It is helpful to understand today’s Gospel if we remember that Mark was writing his Gospel for the early Christians before their separation from Judaism, which happened after the destruction of the temple. They were struggling to put it all together and at the same time being persecuted by both the Jewish leaders and the Romans. Mark tells his stories in a way that speaks to them and what they are going through.
Today’s story of the blind man is not the first time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus has cured a blind man, but there is a difference in the two incidents. In Chapter 8, the blind man is brought to Jesus by friends – he doesn’t come on his own. He doesn’t know whether to believe or not. The people have not witnessed this kind of cure before and aren’t certain it will happen. In this case, Jesus cures the man in stages, first laying hands on his eyes after which the man is able to see partially. Then Jesus lays hands on his eyes again and the man can now see clearly. It is a reminder to those early Christians that spiritual sight or faith comes in stages, that they need to be patient with their own growth and insight.
The second blind man in today’s Gospel, Bartimaeus, comes to Jesus on his own. He shouts out calling “Jesus the Son of David, have pity on me.” This is a messianic title indicating he already believed that Jesus was the Messiah, based on the prophecy that the Messiah would be a descendant of David.
Some people around him try to keep him quiet but others exhort him to “take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” They are like those early Christians, divided in their understanding. But Bartimaeus’s belief in Jesus is strong and well developed.
When Jesus calls him forward, Bartimaeus throws off his cloak and springs up, he is not going to lose this opportunity. Jesus says, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus answers humbly, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus doesn’t lay hands on him as he did with the other blind man. Rather, he recognizes his belief and simply confirms it, saying, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Bartimaeus is cured instantly and follows Jesus along the way, the way of discipleship. This is encouragement for the early Christians and symbolic of their own growing faith. They did become strong enough to endure persecution rather than give up their faith and trust in Jesus. In fact, they endured torture and horrifying forms of death that make me wonder what I would do if faced with the same choice.
Bartimaeus trusted that he would be healed. He just had to find a way for Jesus to hear him. Think about trust and how it works in our own lives. When I drive down these narrow Kentucky roads, I trust that the driver of the big truck coming at me will stay on his side. I trust that the food we are served isn’t contaminated. We trust that our close friends will keep confidentiality when we share with them. We trust that God will hear our prayers. We trust in the Loretto Community to support and care for us. We trust in the good will of people working for and with us. We trust in doctors and nurses to care for us. And we are empowered when people trust us.
Teilhard de Chardin talks about how everything in the universe is relational. The smallest particles of matter are in relationship with each other when they are together and even when they are apart. Trees are in relation to one another, animals are in relationship, all the cells in our bodies are related, and so on all the way up the chain to humans who are conscious that they are in relationship. The whole of the universe is in relationship and relationships imply trust.
We humans, the most conscious of all beings, have the task of protecting those relationships in our own environment, especially with other people. Our country suffers from a lack of trust. People don’t trust scientific evidence, vaccines, politicians, religious leaders, the police, our justice system and often with good reason.
As a Community I think we give witness that people can live together in healthy relationships. We can support one another and trust each other. It isn’t always perfect. We sometimes need to work at understanding and supporting the good will of others. Our trust in the providence of God and in the good will of one another does demonstrate that working together is better than going it alone because it builds those relationships that Chardin talks about. It follows nature.
In closing, a quote from IATW says it well: “It is important that nothing in our lives cuts us off from other human beings. Rather, we try to live so that everything about us, our words and works and manner of living, promote understanding and peace among ourselves and others.” (#23) May we, like Bartimaeus, follow on the way in love with trust of God and one another.