There are three actors in the Gospel for today: Bartimaeus, the crowd, and Jesus. Each of the actors can teach us a valuable lesson.
First there is the blind man, Bartimaeus. He is a blind beggar who sits on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem. This would have been a heavily traveled thoroughfare and would have given him ample opportunity to beg alms from those who were on their way to Jerusalem. When Jesus and the crowd pass him, he cries out to them: “Have pity on me.” He is honest about his need for help and is humble enough to ask for it. However, not only is he honest and humble, he also places his trust in Jesus. When Jesus asks him what he desires, he freely reveals his need. “Lord, I want to see.” Sight would change his entire life. He would no longer be able to beg alms by the roadside. He would be expected to provide for himself.
Then there is the crowd. They try to discourage the blind beggar from asking for help. As a blind man, he would be considered unclean just as every individual who had some physical disability. They don’t want him coming between Jesus and them. They view Bartimaeus as a distraction, as someone who does not belong in their company. However, when Jesus obviously takes pity on the man, they change their tune rather quickly. They are the typically tepid disciples who don’t want to become involved with the beggars that populate Israel at that time.
Finally there is Jesus who simply asks the man what it is that he wants. At first the question seems a little out of place. It should be obvious what a blind beggar wants. However, Jesus asks so that Bartimaeus has the opportunity to express his need. Jesus does not initiate the encounter. He wants the petitioner to initiate the action.
The Gospel closes by telling us that after being given his sight, he follows Jesus who is on his way to Jerusalem. The story is open-ended in that we are not told what happens to Bartimaeus in the days of Jesus’ passion and death.
As is often the case in such stories, we must respond. Where do we fit in the story? Can we learn the need for honesty, humility, and trust in Jesus? Can we embrace those in need? Or is our faith limited to parameters that only have room for “Jesus and me”?
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator