Imagine living in a world where everytime you recognize the need for something crucial in your life, and you ask for it, people around you suggest you don’t know what you’re asking for, shout you down, or tell you to ‘be quiet’.
Try imagining that you have a serious problem; you’re in a crowd, and you need help. You know someone in authority is near,and you call to them to help you; the people in the crowd tell you to stop shouting and making a fuss.
We see that scenario played out in our Gospel passage this week from St. Mark, where Jesus encounters Bartimaeus, the blind man. Jesus is ministering and moving about, generating a lot of interest and crowds. People are coming to see him, to touch him, to hear what he has to say. And in the midst of this, we are told, a blind man is aware of Jesus moving by and shouts ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’
Something profound is happening here. Bartimaeus, living in his blindness, recognizes that someone in authority, with great power, is nearby. He doesn’t simply shout out ‘Jesus help me’ or ‘Jesus son of Joseph heal me’ – he utters the messianic ‘Son of David’ cry; even in his physical blindness, Bartimaeus recognizes Jesus as the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets, of the coming of a messiah in the line of David. He acknowledges (perhaps in a limited way) that Jesus is more than ‘just’ another prophet. He acknowledges Jesus is the completion of God’s promise to Israel; a promise of a deliverer – and even in his blindness he can see that Jesus is there to deliver from darkness. But the crowd around Bartimaeus tells him to be quiet.
No one takes up the cry of ‘Son of David’. No one offers to help draw Jesus’ attention to Bartimaeus, or to help Bartimaeus move closer to Jesus. No one affirms him in his desire to have Jesus’ healing touch free him from his darkness.
They tell him to be quiet.
Thankfully, Bartimaeus is made of stronger stuff, and he calls out again to Jesus, and this time, Jesus tells the bystanders, ‘bring him to me.’
That one line could be taken as a command to his disciples; as a command to all who hear and claim to be followers of Jesus; ‘bring him to me’
Isn’t that what we are all called to do, through our own baptism? Are we not all invited to live a life in union with God and with each other? Are we not called to bring others to come to know, love and serve God?
Of course when Bartimaeus is ‘brought’ to Jesus, there is a verbal exchange, in which Bartimaeus confirms his belief that Jesus can indeed heal him; the fact that he repeated his cry ‘Son of David have mercy on me’ when those around him tried to stifle him, shows determination and perseverance in his faith in Jesus on some level.
And it is because of that faith, that Jesus heals Bartimaeus; and the gospel says Bartimaeus followed Him.
This particular passage gives us a very clear example of the choices we can make in our own lives in bringing about the Kingdom of God. This is what the ‘New Evangelization’ that we hear so much about means – reaching out and drawing others into this deep friendship of healing, of mercy, of compassion and love with Christ.
There are two groups of people presented here: on one hand, those who, when they hear Bartimaeus seeking healing, crying out to Jesus in his need, tell him to ‘be quiet’; on the other hand are those who obey when Jesus says, ‘bring him to me’.
It’s quite easy to see our own modern world reflected in this Gospel story. When those who recognize the emptiness of their own lives; those who suffer; those who are isolated; those who know that material wealth and power and privilege can never totally satisfy – when they cry out to Jesus, society tells them to ‘be quiet’ .
When others recognize the downward spiral in our culture, that abortion and euthanasia are intrinsically evil and speak out against these evils for the love of God, they are told to ‘be quiet’.
When still others suggest that all people should be treated with the respect and dignity that is theirs simply because they were created in the image and likeness of God, they are told to ‘be quiet’.
That’s the voice of the crowd that does not recognize the strength and power of hope, of faith and of trust in God. That demand to ‘be quiet’ is spoken by those who are truly blind to the beauty and love of God all around them.
On the other hand, we can thank God that we still have in our own modern society, those who respond to Jesus’ command to ‘bring him to me’; ‘bring to me’ those who are in need of healing; ‘bring to me’ those who have lost hope; ‘bring to me’ those who suffer, who are isolated, who know that relying on things and wealth and prestige will only leave you empty and alone. ‘Bring them all to me…’
The challenge for each one of us then, is to reflect on this passage and honestly ask ourselves which group we find ourselves in – the crowd that says ‘be quiet’ or those who respond when Jesus says ‘bring him to me’
The truth is, we don’t really have a choice which group we belong to – if we really and truly call ourselves disciples of Christ. It should be readily apparent that we must belong to the second group, the group that evangelizes, the group that, by a lived example, draws others to the healing love of Jesus.
Is it easy? Of course not – nobody ever said it would be; but we can always ask for perseverance in our faith, even in the face of a hostile world, as Bartimaeus had in the hostile crowd; supported in our baptismal calling, we can bring others to Christ as he commands; blessed by the Sacraments, we can always reach out and rely on the healing touch of Christ, crying out in our own darkness, if only to hear those merciful, healing words of Jesus, ‘your faith has made you well’ .
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!