Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

St. Augustine points out something strange about the healing of Bartimaeus.  We know that the prefix “bar-” means “son of,” and so it is kind of redundant to say the Bartimaeus was the son of Timaeus.  St. Mark tends to be quick and brief in his Gospel, so if he includes this otherwise redundant fact, we may infer with St. Augustine that Timaeus was well known.  We may also infer, with St. Augustine, that Bartimaeus was a disgrace to his father’s name because not only is he blind, but he is left begging on the street.  Bartimaeus has been rejected by his father and is left to fend for himself.  Whatever Bartimaeus has been or done, not only was he shunned by his father, he is also shunned by those around him – no one feels sorry for him.  You can almost hear people saying, “If he were just a blind man, we could have pity on him – the problem is that besides being blind, he is a terrible person!”

They are literally telling him to be quiet when he cries out to Jesus.  Jesus has healed so many, He has worked so many miracles… in fact, we don’t have a record of Jesus leaving someone in their infirmity after He encounters them.  Maybe the people who knew him didn’t think he deserved to be cured of his blindness.  Maybe whatever this man has done was so rotten that everyone is convinced he is not worth Jesus’ time, and shouldn’t be cured.  That may seem harsh, but I bet if you consider it, you have probably at least been tempted to think that certain people, or a certain person does not deserve to be happy.

Bartimaeus has heard of Jesus, he knows that Jesus is a healer and a teacher.  When Jesus asks him what he wants, Bartimaeus asks to see.  On the surface, this seems like a pretty obvious thing for a blind man to request.  Jesus knows more deeply than the surface however, and tells the man that it is his faith that has saved him.  And we know that the word for being saved is the same as the word for being healed – but the wound he needs to heal from is deeper than blindness, it is the rejection he has experienced from his father.  Faith cures spiritual blindness, and the sign is that Bartimaeus regained his eyesight.  The spiritual blindness Bartimaeus experienced was having become an orphan, having lost his relationship with his father, and, we can infer, his relationship with God the Father.

Jesus spoke constantly about His Father.  Jesus’ Words and teachings were filled with this awesome and divinely attractive affection that offended the leaders of the Jews: “He calls God His Father.”  Jesus taught His disciples also to call God their Father.  Bartimaeus, as he screamed unpleasantly and vehemently to Jesus and was rebuked by the crowds, was desperate to regain his sight, so that he could lay eyes on Jesus.  Philip said to Jesus at the Last Supper, “Lord, show us the Father and it will be enough,” to which Jesus replied, “Have I been with you so long Philip and still you do not know me – whoever sees me, Philip, has seen the Father.”  Bartimaeus has seen Jesus, and the prophecy from the first reading has been fulfilled: “I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, For I am a father to Israel, Ephraim is my first-born.”

One of our Lasallian core principles is that we are an inclusive community.  The only way that can become completely true is for each one of us to grow in the knowledge of who we are before God.  By His mercy, His forgiveness, His healing, His saving Love, we are reborn to be His children.  We come to know our God as our Father, and those He has placed around us as our brothers and sisters.  A truly inclusive community cannot be formed by mere human bonds, or ideas and ideals.  A truly inclusive community is a gift from the God and Father of us all – to the extent that we receive our community as a gift and with faith, we will bear the fruits of the Kingdom.  May we receive and continue to receive our Mullen community as sons and daughters of the same heavenly Father – may we be healed of any blindness that prevents us from believing in what truly unites us.  And may those who are called to join our community be received with open hearts as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

AUGUSTINE:

Mark has recorded both the name of Bartimaeus and of his father, a circumstance which scarcely occurs in all the many cases of healing which had been performed by the Lord.… Consequently there can be little doubt that this Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, had fallen from some position of great prosperity, and was now regarded as an object of the most notorious and the most remarkable wretchedness, because, in addition to being blind, he had also to sit begging.1

Footnotes

  1. HARMONY OF THE GOSPELS 2.65. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 145). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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