My Dear Parishioners:
There are many stories in the gospel about blind people being healed, but this one about Bartimaeus is probably the best known, and it has a nice lesson for us. The poor man was blind, and when he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he had to make a choice, quickly. He could just sit there and let Jesus pass him by, or he could grab the moment, and ask to be healed. Jesus was said to have the power to heal, but you had to get his attention and ask to be healed.
In a cartoon some time back, a sharp-tongued little girl called Lucy was trying to reform her schoolmate Charlie Brown. She glared at him and said, “Do you know what’s wrong with you, Charlie Browne?” “What?” he asked. “What’s wrong with you is that, well, you don’t want to know what’s wrong with you!” How unlike Bartimaeus, who was determined to be cured. When he called out to Jesus, people around him tried to get him to shut up, and stay quiet. But he just shouted louder, and kept shouting until Jesus stopped and called him over. Although Bartimaeus was blind, Jesus stayed where he was and let the blind man come to him. If he really wanted to be cured, he would find a way to get to Jesus.
It was obvious that Bartimaeus was blind, and yet Jesus asked him “What do you want me to do for you?” The man had to name his problem, himself. If we want to be cured of blindness, of alcoholism, or of depression, then we need to come to Jesus and tell him what’s wrong with us. He knows our needs, yet he says “Ask and you will receive.” “Your heavenly Father will surely give to those who ask.” Bartimaeus’s reply was simple and uncomplicated. There was no long speech, no haggling or wheedling. “I want to see” was his direct reply. And Jesus told him that his faith had healed him. Rightly, this blind man knew that Jesus would not turn away from the cry of the poor. Just think of what he did: he threw aside his old cloak, got up, and ran to Jesus. The old cloak may be a symbol for his past, his darkness, his despair. He made an act of hope-filled faith, and Jesus did not disappoint him. All attempts of the bystanders to silence him made him more determined. He was clear about what he wanted, and knew who could help him. That’s why Bartimaeus has a lesson for us all, here and now.
Jesus asks us, “What do you want me to do for you?” Call out to him and have your vision cleared, your eyes opened. Set aside your old cloak, burdens, past . . . God’s kingdom is at hand!