28th October 2018 GSC
In these last week's, with St. Mark's Gospel, we have been, as it were, walking with Jesus on his last journey from the Mount of the Transfiguration to the Cross. Today we find ourselves on the penultimate part of that journey when Jesus is on the outskirts of Jericho, the lowest occupied city on earth being about 800 feet below sea level. It is here that Jesus performs his last healing miracle before he goes to his suffering and death in the Holy City of Jerusalem.
It is customary for us to talk about “going up to London” wherever we are in England because one always goes “up” to the capital city. For Jesus and his followers “going up to Jerusalem” was even more literal for not only was Jerusalem the capital but it is on high ground and they would have been climbing a steep road from ancient Jericho to Jerusalem on that last journey of some 15 miles or so.
On this uphill trek there is a blind beggar by the roadside who was clearly aware of gathering of followers with Jesus even though he could not see them. Possibly he would have heard them chatting or, as sensitive blind people sometimes do, felt the vibration of the moving crowd in his feet.
The end of Jesus` ministry in person in his humanity in this world is coming to an end and yet we find this story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus unique in all the the healing miracles of Jesus – unique, because only in this miracle does the recipient of the saving, loving, healing grace of Jesus get named! He is Bartimaeus, that is to say the Son of Timaeus.
The Pope Emeritus, Pope Benedict XVI in a sermon on the 29thOctober 2006, just twelve years ago, he describes the uniqueness of Our Lord`s meeting with Bartimaeus. Jesus of fully aware of what is to come in the Upper Room at Mount Zion, in the Garden of Gethsemane in the hours that follow the Last Supper and, indeed, the Cross on Great, Good and Holy Friday as our Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters refer to the day of the Crucifixion.
Bartimaeus, at the side of the road knows what he wants and, miraculously, knows exactly who Jesus is and has the faith the Jesus will meet his needs. He is physically blind and longs to see, whether or not he has had physical sight before. But, quite clearly, he has a spiritual sight and recognition that even the apostle have not yet taken hold of ins spite of having share the work and ministry of Jesus for some three years in Galilee! Whilst Jesus is passing out through the suburbs of the naturally rich city of Jericho a voice cries out loudly: `Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. His followers try to shut the man up but Jesus, the Son of God, is moved by what he hears and tells his followers to bring the man to Him. We get a glimpse of the personal and direct encounter that was to follow of Jesus, the God who is the second person of the Blessed Trinity with his will to cure and make whole and the afflicted ad suffering man with his desire both to receive mercy and to be healed – two free wills converging and Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you ?” to which Bartimaeus replies, “Let me receive my sight.” Jesus replies, “Go your way, your faith has made you well.”
As Pope Benedict`s sermon puts it: “With these words, the miracle is realised – God`s joy, man`s joy. For Bartimaeus who had recovered his sight, implying that once he had been able to see so St. Mark`s gospel would appear to indicate not only receives his sight but actually, in relation to Jesus, “followed him on the way”. That is to say that he immediately became a disciple and goes up with the Master to Jerusalem to take part with him in the great mystery of salvation.
Bartimaeus was without physical sight but yet he had a wisdom, and insight, perhaps even a revelation about who Jesus truly is. In his first appeal to Jesus, which Jesus so readily heard, he says, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me “ and these words would seem to indicate that he knows that Jesus is the Messiah, prophesied of old, as “the One who is to come “ has arrived. Clearly this awareness and the entreaty moved the heart of Jesus and, of course, Jesus gave him back his sight and, uniquely it seems , Bartimaeus got up immediately and followed Jesus by joining that group that was going up to Jerusalem. In a way this is a type of the catechumen`s itinerary toward the sacrament of baptism which, in the primitive church was called, `The way of Illumination` - literally `The Way of seeing the Light` that is to say the Light which is Jesus the Son of God. Meeting Jesus was the moment he had been waiting for. A personal relationship was forged and we too are to forge a personal and loving relationship with Our Saviour.
We need to remember that Jesus did not come simply to restore physical sight or, indeed, other physical healing though these, very clearly and profoundly, were part of his ministry but, more importantly, to grant spiritual hearing and insight and relationship to Him as both truly human and divine and the author of all life. As one of the oblates of St. Francis de Sales puts it, “Each of us is blind in some respect. We may not see from the heart into the heart. Francis de Sales himself said, “Lips speak only to ears; hearts speak to hearts.” This kind of speaking and listening and seeing into the heart of Jesus. Let us then pray that we may more readily look into our hearts, try to be open and ask our Lord Jesus to heal our blindness to and for the hearts of others!
As baptised sisters and brother of our Saviour Jesus Christ we must open ourselves to Him that a deep and personal relationship may grow with and in Him but utterly without self-righteousness.
Traditionally, the month of October has been particularly dedicated to mission and we need to take on board our own calling as baptised Christians that we have an inherent missionary vocation to deepen our own relationship with Jesus and tor bring others to the knowledge of His love and saving grace. Amen.