30th Ordinary: October 23/24, 2021
My name – is Bartimaeus: a blind beggar who lived in Jericho. . . And I spent most of my days just feeling sorry for myself. . . I was good at throwing pity parties.
Ironic – since my name means “son of Timaeus” which in turn means “respected one.” But there were few in town who had any respect for me.
Because in my day – if you suffered in some physical way – blindness, deafness, leprosy, were maimed or crippled in some way --- it was thought it was due to some sin you committed – or some sin your parents had committed before you were born-- as moral faults and failings were supposedly passed down from one generation to the next.
So there I was – going nowhere. Hoping that someone would throw a few coins my way – which is why I had my one possession – my cloak – spread out over my legs and onto the ground to catch those precious alms. . .
On one somewhat normal day in our somewhat normal town – I heard a commotion. “It’s Jesus of Nazareth” the crowd cried out. . .
Jesus of Nazareth I thought – I had heard about him – he’s the one who cures sick people, cares for those who are poor, and weeps with those who are sad. --- and so I decided to take a chance and to beg for more than just alms on this somewhat normal day.
So I cried out at the top of my lungs: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
I found out later that I was the only one who ever called Jesus Son of David in all of St. Mark’s account of his life. Everyone else referred to him as the Son of God. . . or as the Messiah, or as Jesus of Nazareth.
But after begging many a day outside the synagogue and hearing the Scriptures proclaimed – I knew that the Messiah was to come from the house and lineage of the great King David.
So when I cried out, the crowd immediately tried to shut me up. Let me give a piece of advice – never listen to the crowd, as nothing good can come from that. . .
They wanted me to be quiet because they thought I was unworthy of Jesus’s attention – sinner that I supposedly was.
I wonder if they thought any different of me once Jesus did give me his attention. . . because when I cried out all the louder – Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me --- Jesus invited me to come to him.
Imagine, in that crowd – all those important people pushing and shoving around him – asking him for this and that ---
Jesus became aware of me – no one important, no one of status --- just a broken man who was eager for personal contact with the one everyone was calling the Messiah.
“Take courage; get up – Jesus is calling you,” they said – not too enthusiastically, but almost in contempt as they held on to their opinion of me.
And my response was not just an exultant physical leap toward Jesus – but also a leap of faith.
Because I threw my cloak to the ground – my last and only possession that for me, a beggar – served as my coat, my sleeping bag, and a collecting rug for the few coins tossed my way – my whole livelihood!
Because nothing else now mattered to me – not even that dusty bit of turf I sat on day after day -- that, like any beggar, I would have protectively guarded on any other day. But not that day – because nothing mattered anymore – Jesus had called me!
And when I got to him, Jesus asked me one question – one important and life-changing question --- which I heard later he asked two of his disciples just a few days earlier:
“What do you want me to do for you?”
Again I was later told that my response as a marginalized outsider --- was very different than the response of his two insider disciples –
they wanted power and prestige. . . Me? Aware of my poverty and disability – I just wanted to see!
So I said to him --- image me, speaking to the Messiah! --- I said: master – which is Rabboni in Aramaic, used just one other time in all the Gospels by one of his closest followers: Mary Magdalene – who calls him Rabboni after his resurrection when they met outside the tomb in John’s Gospel –
Rabboni, Master, I say --- I want to see!
And Jesus, in his wisdom and insight --- knew I had the eyes of faith – for I had called hum both Son of David AND Rabboni ---- now Jesus gave me eyes to see the world ---- as he said to me: “Go your way: your faith has saved you.”
After all of these years of feeling sorry for myself, and scraping by on the few coins that were thrown my way – I could see --- and with my bright blue eyes fully functioning --- I could now go wherever I wanted to go ----------
but there was only one way I wanted to go: my choice was to follow Jesus on his way – the way that led to Jerusalem: a city of passion, death, and resurrection.
So I am Bartimaeus, now a seeing disciple from Jericho – and this is my story.
Now in addition to my advice to you of not listening to the crowd – never let anyone talk you out of pursuing your hopes and your dreams – I have these three other bits of advice:
--when you’re feeling lonely or afraid, thinking no one cares about you or even sees you – know that Jesus is always aware of you – and is eager to have personal contact with you in the silence of your heart.
--and in that silence of your heart, in prayer --- when Jesus asks you: what do you want me to do for you? Don’t chase after power and prestige—or all the other sparkly things the world tries to entice you with ---
But do look deep within yourself and answer that question from your heart: what is it you really need from Jesus: forgiveness, a sense of direction or purpose, affirmation, a need just to feel loved or accepted? Whatever it is – don’t be afraid to ask – but do make it a need, not a want. For when Jesus does ask: What do you want me to do for you – it’s an important and always a life-changing question.
And finally – when Jesus gives you the freedom of choice to go your way --- just as he did for me -- why not choose to follow Jesus on his way – the way that leads to Jerusalem – the city of passion, death, and resurrection.
If you do make this choice, your life will never be the same.
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