Reflection for Sunday October 25 – Sr. Ruth Maier, SSJ

Readings: Jeremiah 31:7-9; Hebrews 5: 1-6; Mark 10:46 -52

Mark tells us in today’s Gospel, that Jesus is leaving Jericho. He is heading to Jerusalem. And there is a blind man sitting “by the roadside.”

We know this road, this road from Jericho up to Jerusalem. It is the road Jesus tells us about in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It is the
road where “a man fell victim to robbers” (Lk.10:30) and was left half-dead. It is the road where the priest and the Levite in their blindness passed by this stranger. It is the road where the “outsider,” the Samaritan, saw the need and acted with mercy and compassion.

We are on that road again today. Jesus is about to leave Jericho and go up to Jerusalem. And there is a beggar, a blind man, crying out to him for mercy.

Bartimaeus is not going to let Jesus pass him by. He knows who Jesus is— the Son of David—and he wants “to see.”

With this story of Bartimaeus, Mark ends his teaching on the identity of Jesus and the meaning of discipleship, which he has framed with the healing of two blind men.

The teaching begins in Bethsaida (Mk. 8:22) when some people bring a sightless man to Jesus and ask Him to heal the man. At first the man’s vision is blurred and out of focus. So Jesus lays hands on him a second time and the man receives perfect sight. He can see distinctly, now. He has gradually come to see.

Today, in Jericho, as Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem, where His identity will be fully revealed in His Passion, Death and Resurrection, Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus. He wants to see.

For Mark, blindness was the inability of the disciples to understand who Jesus really was—The Son of David, the Suffering Servant, the Son of God.

They did not understand what His mission was about—mercy and compassion, gathering the blind and the lame, consoling and guiding the lost. They were the blind men, not seeing clearly Jesus’ true identity; not seeing what Jesus is truly about.

Last week, James and John asked Jesus for glory, to sit at His right and at His left. They missed the point of what the Kingdom is about.

Today, Bartimaeus asks for sight.

For Mark, coming “to see” is a metaphor for discipleship: Immediately upon receiving his sight, Bartimaeus follows Jesus on the way.

Last month, as Pope Francis was addressing Congress, he spoke of four Americans, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, who, like Bartimaeus, came “to see” and then acted on their vision.

Abraham Lincoln came to see the evil of slavery and worked for a “new birth of freedom” for our country, declaring freedom for the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was for an end to segregation that still prevailed in a country that claims “liberty and justice for all,” where people are not “judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” He marched for Civil Rights.

Dorothy Day saw the oppressed, the marginalized, the homeless, the people on the street, as the children of God, as her brothers and sisters and she founded the Catholic Worker Movement to reach out and care for the poor.

Thomas Merton came to see, at the intersection of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville, Kentucky, “that I loved all these people, that we could not be alien to one another, even though we are total strangers.” And he became a promoter of peace between people and religions.

And so as we hear Bartimaeus’ prayer today, “Lord, that I may see,” we pause to ponder what our prayer might be as Jesus asks us what we want Him to do for us.

We remember at our Baptism, we were given “eyes of faith” to see Jesus clearly, to follow His way.

But perhaps we have come to sit by the side of the road in Bartimaeus’ spot or maybe we are companions on the road with the disciples with impaired vision, unable to grasp the true nature of our discipleship.

Today, we are offered the opportunity to ask ourselves: Where do I need to see more clearly? How do I need my eyes to be opened to the blessings and failures in my life? What are the needs of others that I am missing or over-looking? Has my sight been dimmed by prejudice or selfishness?

As people of faith, we hunger to see:

• the signs of God’s love for us in our every day life;
• the right choices we need to make for our families;
• how we should respond to Pope Francis’ message on caring for Creation, our common home;
• how we should respond to poverty in our city;
• how we should respond to the violence that happens daily around us;
• how we should respond to the needs of the millions of refugees fleeing the terror of ISIS;
• how we should respond to the migrants seeking work on our area farms

And so we pray the Bartimaeus prayer, “Lord, that I may see.”

Jesus will answer our prayer, just as He did for Bartimaeus.

What will you do with the sight you receive?

Sr. Ruth Maier, SSJ
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