Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear All,

Blindness in Christ's time was common. Hygiene was very primitive. Eye doctors had not yet arrived with their magic drops and wonderful lasers. However, what is interesting about this story is that the patient is given a proper name. Mark in his Gospel was not in the habit of being so specific. So, when we read “Bartimaeus, … the son of Timaeus” we know something important is going to happen. Exiled into destitution by his blindness, probably fallen out of family favor (I somewhere read that Timaeus means “respected one”) because of the belief at the time (which we today consider mistaken) that physical disability was also indicative of moral stigma. When Jesus was walking by, Bartimaeus gave Him a raucous yell using not only his everyday name but also the messianic title of Son of David. His eyes were dead but God had gifted him with a first class set of lungs. First the crowd admonished him and asked him to shut up, not unlike crowds (we?) do with unimportant, marginalized people. Even in the crowd Jesus becomes aware of the ragged person who is eager for personal contact with him… to this day, I believe, no matter how frayed I may be or feel… Jesus is not too busy for this personal contact, even within a sizable crowd at the beginning of the last leg of his journey up to Jerusalem about 20 miles southwest over steep and dangerous ascent. Jericho was an impressive oasis city in the first century with palaces, pools and public buildings in the Roman style. King Herod the Great had embellished the ancient city that had become a favorite wintering place for the Jerusalem elite. Close to trade routes it was a convenient gathering point for pilgrims preparing to go up to Jerusalem and therefore a good place for beggars to sit by the wayside hoping for some pious pilgrims tossing a few coins. Jesus instruction to the crowd to “Call him here” combined with the persistence of Bartimaeus seems to transform them from rebuking to encouraging the blind beggar to rise up and answer Jesus’ call. Full of hope and quite faith inspired Bartimaeus throws away his cloak, his last piece of possession (serving as coat, sleeping bag and collection rug for occasional coins tossed his way) and listens to exactly the same question we heard Jesus ask to James and John in last weeks gospel:

“What do you want me to do for you?”. We know how the “insiders” responded, blinded by self-aggrandizement asking for the best place in the kingdom. The “outsider” asks for nothing but that he may see. We witness the last miraculous cure before Jesus passion and crucifixion in Jerusalem, restoring physical sight to a man that showed to have the seeing eyes of faith. Bartimaeus is now free to go wherever he wants, not anymore confined to the one place at the side of the road and he chooses to follow Jesus on the way.

The First Reading from the prophet Jeremiah is a profession of joy as the blind, the lame, the needy have been saved by the Lord and are on their way back home from the exile. The sixth-century B.C.E. verses from Jeremiah announce that vulnerable, dependent people are being brought back, gathered and led by a Shepherd Savior. The prophet assures the people that a gentle and loving God is like a father caring for his firstborn, carrying the poor and weak safely home. The “remnant” refers to the survivors of the fallen northern Kingdom of Israel to the Assyrians in 721 BC, who through the exile are finally being brought together with people of all different backgrounds and abilities into an “immense throng”. The restoration of Israel is about the close relationship of God with his people, mentioning Ephraim, one of the 12 tribes of Israel.

All three Readings this week are success stories, but not in ways we might at first have thought. It was Bartimaeus’ faith that saved him. This is the true miracle. The restoration of his physical sight can be seen as simply the external manifestation of his faith. This tells me that the reign of God exists underneath, behind or deep within the circumstances of life, even if we cannot see it at first sight (no pun intended).

The complete text of today’s Readings can be found at

With God’s Love and Blessings,


For a Print version (pdf file) go to


  1. Thank you!

    Amazing thing this faith - cannot touch, see, or smell or, for the scientists,
    measure but it is there for those of us that believe


  2. Beautiful!! Thanks so much!
    For some reason you made me think of 1 Corinthians 13: "love is patient, love is kind..." thanks so much for doing this week after week.

    Have a wonderful Sunday!