Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
To See What Is Possible
How many "marvels" have you seen in your life? How have you been affected by these "marvels?"
Marvels and astonishing feats begin with a vision. Someone somewhere tilts his or her head in a different way and sees what was not seen before. The mind's eye pictures the impossible as possible. Ingenuity and hard work make the possible real and available.
Miracles also require a vision that makes the impossible possible. Unlike marvels or feats, miracles require a level of faith. Miracles require people to trust in a power greater than they possess. On a dusty road, a blind beggar saw with faith what was possible. And he reached out to One who could help him.
46 Jesus and his followers passed through Jericho. As they left along with a large crowd, Bartimaeus the blind beggar sat alongside the road. 47 When the beggar heard Jesus of Nazareth was walking by, he shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
48 "Be quiet!" many in the crowd whispered to the beggar.
"SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!" the beggar shouted even louder.
49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call the man over here."
"Hey! Get up! Jesus is calling for you," many in the crowd said to the beggar.
50 The beggar threw off his coat, jumped up, and went to Jesus. 51 Jesus answered the man's request with a question. "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked the beggar.
"Teacher," the beggar replied, "I want to see."
52 "Go," Jesus said, "your trust in me has cured you." At that very moment, the beggar could see again. So, he followed Jesus on the way.
Blindness can be more than physical. In today's gospel, a blind person sought Jesus out for a cure, because the man could "see" in Jesus what his followers could not, a chance for change.
46 They came into Jericho. As HE, HIS disciples, and a large crowd left Jericho, Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, sat alongside the road. 47 Having heard that it was JESUS the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, "JESUS, SON OF DAVID, have mercy on me!" 48 Many were commanding him that he might be quiet. But he was shouting all the more, "SON OF DAVID, have mercy on me!" 49 Having stood still, JESUS said "Call him (over here)" They called the blind (man), saying to him, "Courage! Rise Up! HE calls you." 50 Throwing off his cloak, having jumped up, he went to JESUS. 51 Having answered him, JESUS said, "What do you want that I might do for you?" The blind (man) said to him, "Rabboni, (I want) that I might see again." 52 JESUS said to him, "Leave. Your trust (in ME) has cured you." Immediately, he saw again and he was following him on the way.
10:46 "They came into Jericho. As HE, HIS disciples, and a large crowd left Jericho . . . " The text indicated that Jesus and his disciples passed through Jericho on his way. The large crowd accompanied him out of the city.
10:47 "Many were commanding him that he might be quiet." Silence was the content of the command. Another way to translate this sentence would be, "'Silence!' many in the crowd commanded the beggar."
When he heard that Jesus was approaching, the blind beggar called out to set Jesus up for a cure [47-48]. The title "Son of David" could have referred to Jesus' great ancestor; it could also have referred to Solomon, the wisest man in Jewish history. According to the popular image of the Galilean preacher, Jesus possessed God's wisdom with his teaching, for he had God's power with his healing. So, he had the spirit of Solomon. In either case, however, the blind beggar used the title of honor as bait. Unlike the Pharisees and scribes, the beggar did not seek to discredit Jesus in order to build up his own honor. The beggar simply wanted to have his sight and his place in society returned to him. Unlike the Pharisees' challenges, fulfilling the blind man's challenge would increase the honor of both men.
In the time of Jesus, the phrase"have mercy" meant to pay debts; when the debtor paid his or her creditor, he or she was "having mercy" on the creditor. Through God's eyes, the healthy and the well-off have a social debt to pay to the sick and the poor. In his cry for mercy, the blind man was really challenging Jesus: "Hey, wise man, pay your social debt and cure me!"
No wonder Jesus' disciples wanted to shut him up. What an embarrassment! But that did not stop the tenacious man . When Jesus recognized his plea (and challenge), the social embarrassment became encouragement [49-50]. Jesus asked and responded to the man's request for sight .
Unlike last week's gospel, where James and John requested leadership, this week the blind man requested sight. Unlike the physical, spiritual "sight" is the ability to see the greater picture, to see events through God's eyes. Lacking physical sight, Bartimaeus already had this spiritual gift; Jesus' disciples did not. That is why Jesus could say to Bartimaeus: "Your faith has saved you." Jesus equated spiritual sight with faith.
Jesus also tells the cured man: "Go your way." But at the point Bartimaeus called upon Jesus, he became a follower along the way of Jesus (whether he knew it or not). That is why Bartimaeus did not go home, but followed Jesus on his Way (another buzz phrase for "Christianity").
Catechism Themes: The Characteristics of Faith (CCC 153-158)
Bartimaeus could see with his spirit that Jesus could cure his eyes. The ability to see beyond the present is wisdom. To see beyond the possible is faith, a grace from God. The Spirit of God empowers us with spiritual intuition and insight. We cannot arrive at faith by ourselves.
Yet, God never forces faith upon us. Faith is a truly human action, for it requires human choice. God offers us his gift. We are free to choose it or reject it. When we choose faith, we actual choose cooperation. We become partners with the divine in our salvation and the salvation of the world.
While faith exceeds understanding, it does not conflict with human reason. In fact, human reason can lead to (but never replace) faith. If reason and faith appear to be at odds with each other, reason requires patience. Human knowledge is never complete, as old insights give way to new ones and as new areas of knowledge bring new questions. Understanding takes time.
Human understanding can deepen and expand faith. We know that we believe. We want to know why. Faith and understanding work hand in hand to bring us closer to our Maker. But, faith needs to push the envelope of knowledge. For knowledge tells us what is possible. Faith tells us what is impossible. It is a vision of the impossible that brings us to God.
How has God helped you see the impossible? How has God helped you do the impossible?
Bartimaeus gave us an interesting example of conversion. Bold and persistent, the blind man could see the possibility Jesus offered, and risked social alienation for the result. But the result was far deeper that mere physical sight. Jesus offers us the same. At the risk of social standing, we, too, challenged to boldly ask and boldly receive change in our lives.
What seems impossible in your life right now? If you could see that impossibility through God's eyes right now, what would you see? What would be possible in that impossible situation? Why would it be possible?