In our Gospel for this Sunday Christ walks along the streets of the ancient city of Jericho even in Jesus time the city of Jericho was already thousands of years old. With his disciples and a great crowd following him, our Lord is leaving the city and Bartimaeus the blind beggar calls out to him in dire need: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” Bartimaeus, though blind, could see. His instincts were sharper than a fresh razor blade. The divinity of Jesus had come across to him in waves. But those  around and about him, who enjoyed good vision, were blind to the Son of Man. The blind and deaf Helen Keller said, “The most beautiful things in the world can’t be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” It is possible for good people to spend their days searching but never finding their spiritual hearts.

I often feel that I am going around in circles looking for this or that way of curing my own spiritual blindness. But I always come to the same conclusion that faith in God is what it is all about. Spiritual blindness often prevents people from perceiving the correct way a follower of Jesus should live. Our following of Jesus is not compulsory.

We cannot be compelled to love or to accept the mission of God to transform the world after the pattern that Jesus gave us that is our own free choice. We must not accept the voices that would have us silenced and there are so many in our modern world and many of those voices are blind to the Spiritual heart of faith. The gift we seek is sight, that is the ability to capture the vision of a new creation brought about by a faith filled community of people. Of course we will be afraid. Our reflection on the lives of those who have gone before us tell us that the way of discipleship can lead us into paths we may find difficult  The Gospel stories we have heard over these past weeks reveal how blind the disciples and the people around them really were. The bewildered confusion of the twelve; the cruel reaction of the crowd, who “scolded Bartimaeus and told him to keep quiet’”; the blindness of those in Jerusalem determined to destroy him. Through this miracle, Jesus makes Bartimaeus a living sign of what he is doing in the name of his Father – healing the world’s blindness, leading the human family to see in him the truth of God’s ways and not the way of the world. Discipleship is not about having possessions. Bartimaeus had no possessions except his cloak. But he even casts that aside to get up and come to Jesus.

He is a powerful symbol for us: what little he has he puts aside to get closer to Jesus. The last line of the story captures the gospel message. Jesus immediately gives the man his sight to his eyes and his heart. With the gift Jesus has given him he can see where he is to go he gets up and follows Jesus. The gift was swift in coming and Bartimaeus responds just as quickly. “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.” “The way” is symbolic language for those who follow Jesus. The disciples, on the road with Jesus, must have thought of themselves as part of the “in crowd,” the way James and John did when they asked Jesus to give them seats of power in his kingdom  in last Sundays Gospel (Mark 10:35-45). While they were physically close to Jesus, they were a long way from understanding and taking his message on board. The blind beggar, with nothing but a cloak, was exactly the kind of person Jesus noticed and invited to come close while those with Jesus still didn’t get it  and as a result they were not his true followers on “the way.” God wants us to say truthfully in the silence of our hearts, “Lord that I may see.” Jesus wants our prayer like that of Bartimaeus to come from a sincere heart that asks not only for the gift of sight so that we can see the world around us, but also for the gift of seeing – of seeing the truth, or the lack of it in the depths of our being, and then taking the action necessary to reverse our blindness.

Bartimaeus the clever man that he was saw Christ with the eyes of faith and  a faith filled heart. So you and I must also look and see Jesus with the eyes of faith so that we may be able to see more clearly what we have to do as people of faith to lead others to Christ.


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