The Gospel reading for next Sunday, the 30th Sunday of the Year, is a simple story but full of resonance, especially when seen in the broader context of the narrative of Mark’s Gospel.
As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said ‘get up; he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him ‘Master, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.
The man who is blind contrasts with the ‘great’ disciples from the 12 who can see but again and gain prove themselves blind with regard to Jesus and his teaching. The blind man leaves behind his cloak in his eagerness to get to Jesus – the cloak that is his shelter and comfort, and that having been left behind in the crowd may well be lost to him forever: in this he is so unlike the disciple who later in the Garden of Gethsemane will lose all his clothes in order to get away from the scene of the arrest of Jesus.
Bartimaeus is a model set before us to remind us of what discipleship is about, a response, positive and pure and simple to the Master who offers healing and purpose. Way back in Chapter 1 of the Gospel all the disciples responded to Jesus in this way, now their response is much more awkward and partial, it seems. Mark reminds us of the first fervour of conversion as we move to the Passion narrative.
As we move to the last days of Ordinary Time, and Advent appears on our horizon, we maybe need to question our response to the Lord.
- What is our enthusiasm for him now?
- What was it formerly?
- How do we explain any difference?
- What do we ask of the Lord?
Poster image, Moscow, August 2015. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.