What Would We Say to Bartimaeus?
User's Guide to Sunday, Oct. 25
Sunday, Oct. 25, is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B).
Jeremiah 31:7-9, Psalms 126:1-6, Hebrews 5:1-6, Mark 10:46-52
Today’s Gospel tells the story about Bartimaeus, the blind man, and his cure. But it also tells the story of the great company of Jesus’ followers.
Take the blind man, first.
He is a model of faith and prayer. He knows his weakness, knows his helplessness, and calls out to Jesus. He has to strain to get the Lord’s attention, but he perseveres despite difficulties, and when he finally hears the call of Jesus, he follows right away, throwing away his cloak, as if he were throwing away his old life.
We should all be like Bartimaeus. But we often aren’t like him. We are like the other group mentioned in the Gospel: “Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd ...” That crowd is more like the situation we are in. We are already following Jesus. We go to church. We pray. We read the National Catholic Register.
We are probably even proud of Jesus, like the people in the crowd must have been. They were proud enough that Bartimaeus soon learns from them that Jesus is passing by. He starts to call out to Jesus, and the crowd’s first reaction is this: “Many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.”
If this sounds like a terrible thing for Jesus’ crowd of disciples to do, we should keep in mind that we often do this ourselves. Sometimes, our interference is direct. I once read the story of a successful Irish man who said that early on he had considered being a priest. His family greeted the announcement with embarrassment and sheepishly told him, “Hey, we all went through a phase like that. Let it pass.”
Often, though, it is less direct. We may notice someone who is suffering, feeling a loss, feeling empty or is in pain: a co-worker, maybe, or a relative or neighbor. Those hurting individuals may even confide in us. And we may decide not to tell them about Jesus or the faith.
How does Jesus respond to such decisions on our part? By showing us his response.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, “Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’” His followers then do the right thing. “They called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take courage; get up. Jesus is calling you.’”
That’s the response that discerning man’s family should have had: “You feel called? Don’t worry; we have your back.” That is the response we should have to the acquaintance who is suffering: “I have found consolation in a relationship with Jesus.” We should be like Bartimaeus. “Immediately, he received his sight and followed him on the way,” says the Gospel. He didn’t go his own way. He made Jesus’ way his way. So should we.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas,
where he lives with April, his wife and in-house theologian and consultant, and their children.