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I Want to See!
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
Opening Prayer: Today is your day, Lord. I want to live it well. I want to calmly turn my heart to you in praise, in worship. I want to leave aside the demands of work and the hustle and bustle of this crazy world. I want to rest in your presence and delight in your good gifts—the beauty of creation, the love of my family, the joy of simply being alive. You don’t need me to work today—you can take care of the universe without my help for a little while. Teach me to keep this Lord’s Day holy.
- A Waste of Time: Bartimaeus wasted no time complaining. He didn’t reproach God for allowing his blindness and all the suffering and misery it caused. He didn’t demand explanations from God. He didn’t pour out his energy blaming God for his having fallen victim to the unfolding brokenness of this fallen world. How much time we waste complaining! How much energy we spend trying to figure out things that we ought to simply accept! Yet, on the other hand, Bartimaeus didn’t pretend that everything was okay; he didn’t ignore his suffering and need. He was poignantly aware of his limitations. As a result, as soon as he heard that Jesus was passing by, he started crying out to get his attention, and he cried out even more loudly when the famous rabbi’s entourage tried to shush him. Bartimaeus avoided two unhealthy attitudes that we can often fall into, attitudes that drain precious energy from our spirit: excessive self-pity and excessive self-reliance. Which is my typical pitfall? What does Bartimaeus have to say to me?
- The Wealth of the Needy: Why did a blind beggar have such vibrant hope in Jesus, while the wealthy and well-educated Jewish leaders had only suspicion and disdain for him? We saw Bartimaeus throwing aside his cloak and springing to his feet as soon as he heard that Jesus was willing to hear him out. He called him Son of David, showing that somehow he recognized Jesus for the Messiah he was. Such eagerness! Such faith! Such spiritual insight! And all in a poor man, a marginalized and suffering man. One would think that the experts and the leaders would be much more in tune with the truth, but when it came to recognizing Christ for who he really was, they were the blind ones. Is there something about being successful and popular that isolates us from Christ, that darkens our spiritual vision? Perhaps not intrinsically, but circumstantially it does seem to be a pattern in the New Testament. If we think we don’t need God, we will be much more likely to overlook God’s action and love in our lives. In today’s secularized culture, we need to be especially aware of this tendency. We are bombarded by thousands of messages every day, coming to us in so many different forms, that invite us to depend entirely on ourselves to achieve the happiness and fulfillment we yearn for. If we are dissatisfied with the state of our friendship with Christ, maybe it’s because those messages have penetrated our hearts and minds more than we realize.
- The Obvious Question: This blind man was brought to Jesus, and Jesus asks him a question: What do you want me to do for you? Was Jesus serious? Wasn’t it obvious what this man wanted? He had heard about Jesus’s miracles, and he wanted a miracle for himself; he wanted to regain his sight. So why did Jesus ask the question? Maybe it was just a conversation starter. But maybe it was a sincere query. Maybe Jesus respected this man so much that he was actually giving him a chance to exercise his own human dignity by making a free, explicit request of the Lord. God wants to be involved in our lives, but he also wants us to live our lives to the full, and that means taking responsibility for ourselves, our actions, our desires, our decisions. Certainly he knows what we need even better than we know ourselves. But he didn’t create us to be robots, programmed by our Creator down to the slightest behavior. He created us to be co-creators, to be creative, to take ownership of the gifts and opportunities we have been given. Without Christ and his grace we can do nothing (John 15:5), but without exercising our own freedom and choosing to enter into friendship with him, no matter the cost, we cannot access that grace: If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (Matthew 19:21). Our Lord’s interaction with Bartimaeus is a pattern of his interaction with each one of us: Jesus hears the cry of our hearts that suffer in this fallen world; he arranges for us to come to him, to encounter him, and he invites us into his grace; but then he patiently and respectfully awaits our faith-filled response. Will he wait in vain?
Conversing with Christ: I am so blind, Lord. I am so blind that I don’t even recognize my own blindness. I think I know how things should be. I think I am always right and everyone else is wrong. I often come to you just to complain and to tell you how to fix everything. But I want to come to you humbly, joyfully, and faithfully. I don’t want to ignore my needs, but I want them to open me to your grace. I want to recognize your presence, to reach out to encounter you, and to believe with all my heart in everything you have revealed to us about yourself, ourselves, and the path to true happiness. I believe, Lord—you know I do! But my faith is so weak. Have pity on me Lord, for I want to see!
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will initiate a conversation with loved ones about our various experiences of God’s goodness, knowing that sharing those experiences will bolster our faith.
For Further Reflection: Watch the conference The Sickness Behind How We Respond to Sickness to help reflect on God’s perspective regarding our weakness and need for healing.
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.