A Man Who Saw by Hearing

User’s Guide to Sunday, Oct. 24

The miracle of Jesus healing Bartimaeus is depicted in stained glass in St. Mary Abbot's Church on Kensington High Street in London.
The miracle of Jesus healing Bartimaeus is depicted in stained glass in St. Mary Abbot's Church on Kensington High Street in London. (photo: Renata Sedmakova / Shutterstock.com)

Oct. 24 is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126:1-6; Hebrews 5:1-6; and Mark 10:46-52.

In today’s Gospel there is the familiar story of the healing of the blind man, Bartimaeus, a man who receives his sight as the result of hearing. His story is also our story. Let’s look at this Gospel in stages.

Stage One, Problem: As the Gospel opens, we hear of Bartimaeus, begging by the roadside. Bartimaeus is physically blind, but not spiritually so, since he knows he is blind. And to know our neediness is an important spiritual insight that too many lack. Few of us are aware of how blind, pitiable, poor and naked they really are before God (Revelation 3:17); we depend on God for every beat of our heart. Too often, we are blind to this. But Bartimaeus knows that he is blind, and so he calls for help. Though he is blind, he still has spiritual insight.

Stage Two: Proclamation:  When Bartimaeus is told that it is Jesus of Nazareth who was passing by, he cries out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” Up until this point he was calling for help from anyone who happened to pass by. But no mere passerby, nor anyone in this world, can ultimately help him with his real problem.

It is the same with us. Science, medicine, philosophy, economics and politics have their place, but all their solutions are rooted in this world, which is passing away. True vision can only be granted by the Lord. Hence, with Bartimaeus, our first proclamation should always be: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!”

Stage Three: Perseverance: But the crowd rebuked Bartimaeus, telling him to be silent. Nevertheless, he kept calling all the more: “Son of David, have pity on me!” With such perseverance, Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” 

Is it true fact that those of us who call on the Lord will often experience rebuke, hostility and ridicule from the world. The blind man ignores all of this, and so should we. And though even Jesus delayed to give an answer, the blind man persevered, and Jesus called for him to come. 

Stage Four: Priority: The text says that Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak, sprang up and came to Jesus. His cloak was probably the most valuable and necessary thing he owned, as, in that arid climate, the temperature drops rapidly after sunset. So critical was the cloak that Scripture forbade the taking of a cloak as collateral for a loan (see Deuteronomy 24:12-13). But note, he cast it aside and went to Jesus. What of us? What are we willing to leave behind to find Christ? 

Stage Five: Permission: Jesus asks a surprising question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Why does Jesus ask this? Isn’t it obvious what a blind man needs? Yes! But healing takes courage. Truth be told, most of us want relief more than healing. The Lord respects us and our freedom. He wants our consent before he goes to work. He knows that most of us are not always ready for what healing really requires.

Stage Six: Path: Jesus tells Bartimaeus, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” And, immediately, he received his sight and followed Jesus on the way. As we have already seen, true healing brings forth radical change. And now a man who sat by the road begging sees, gets up and follows Jesus, the one true way to the Father — for faith has saved him, and faith not only gives sight, but summons us to an obedience that has us walk in the path of the Lord.

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COMMENTARY: ‘We all want progress,’ writes C.S. Lewis, ‘but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.’