Do We Need Healing from Blindness?
There is a profound teaching in today’s Gospel. Obviously, it is the story of Blind Bartimaeus of which we know little except that his name is in the Gospel and his name means Son of Timaeus. However, there is a powerful lesson in this for you and me.
Remember, this is the Gospel of Mark. It is the first and shortest Gospel so it is the most pithy of the various Gospels. The story is basic and straight and with all of Mark, it is good to look at what is not written.
The purpose of this Gospel is to educate the Early Jews and Gentiles about who Jesus is and the eternal life he promises us. The element here is a blind man named Bartimaeus. This is important because the fact that his name is mentioned is significant. It is possible for example that his story went far and wide and here is where people learn how his name became connected to Jesus. I do not know. Maybe he was well known this is Mark relating how he first came to meet Jesus.
Second: notice the issue: Bartimaeus cannot see. We don’t know why he cannot see and we don’t know if he ever did see, we only know that he wanted to see and this is what he asks Jesus. I want to see.
Third: There are most likely many blind people both born blind and blind due to injury and disease, but in Mark, we see this one story of Bartimaeus who wants to see.
Notice something else. He is calling out for healing from blindness. He no longer wants to be blind but many rebuke him and tell him to be quiet. However, he persists and he remains blind and follows Jesus. What does that mean? Notice He leaves behind the people who rebuked him.
What is this lesson for us today?
Let us look at the lesson more deeply:
What is faith? Many will ask the question of whether or not we believe in God and assumedly those who have faith believe in God and those who do not have faith do not. However, no one believes in God more than the Devil. He does not have faith because he can see God daily. So, faith is more than just believing in God. In fact, faith in what Jesus is teaching is a new way of seeing. This is what faith is.
If you look at the New Testament carefully, you will see over and over again a message not between believers and non-believers but those who can see and those who cannot. What is defined as who can and cannot see is those who see with the eyes of faith and those whose eyes of faith were darkened.
In other words, the people who truly seek and follow Jesus can see and those who reject him or follow him for the wrong reason cannot.
What is worse is remember people tried to silence Bartimaeus. We know nothing about who they were. They may have been family members, townspeople, or just those following Jesus. I would suspect that they were the former two rather than the latter one. In any case, people try to silence him. In other words, they want to keep him blind. Is it possible the implication is that they want to keep him blind because they too—in the words of faith—were blind too?
So, he, however, persists in what he is seeking. He does not listen to those who try to talk him out of seeking the ability to see from Jesus. He continues his quest and he finds Jesus. However, notice something else. He is healed of his blindness and he follows him. In other words, as is often taught in the Bible the minute he can see Jesus, his life is changed. He begins to follow Jesus and pun intended he does not look back.
There is a separate parable not here about the weeds and wheat. A community is filled with both and we have to allow that to happen for if we were to remove the weeds to permit the wheat to grow we would find that we would pull out some of the wheat too. So, we must allow both to be part of any community.
Therefore, the fact that people tried to silence Bartimaeus is not surprising. It is not that they purposely tried to be a form of weed in this quest to bear fruit. It is rather, they saw no need to change their way of seeing. They could not understand his blindness for they suffered from a form of blindness themselves.
If you look at what the scriptures teach us it is that Jesus heals spiritual blindness.
So now here is a question to ask. Are we spiritually blind? Where are we spiritually blind and what do we need to do to be able to see?
We have been going through a terrible time in the Church for twenty years, however, if we look at this terrible time differently, maybe this is how the Lord is curing our blindness. Have we become blind to the power of the Lord? What has made us complacent to the Lord working in our lives so powerfully that he changed lives permanently?
Here is a question I have for us? Many college students in the area do not approach the church. Is it because they do not want to go to church or is it that we have become so complacent that we have no message for them? They pay tens of thousands of dollars to learn from the institutions around us, it costs nothing to enter into our church. Can we say that we are communicating our message so poorly that it has no power?
Is our difficult time in our Church how the Lord is healing us of our blindness. How are we being changed and how is God giving us a new vision? Where do we need to believe in a new way?
This is a good week for us to ask the Lord to heal our blindness to say to the Lord in our prayer that we want to see.
DJ Kennedy was an evangelical preacher in Coral Gables Florida and he did not like the Catholic Church. The reason is he saw it as a system of salvation, but Catholicism is not a system it is the body of Christ seeking to bring salvation to the world. However, what we can take from Rev. Dr. Kennedy who is deceased is something important. It can become a system. We can turn our faith in Christ into nothing more than a system. If we follow the system we will go to Heaven. When we do that we prove Dr. Kennedy correct. So we have to make sure we do not live within a system but in a personal life-changing encounter with Christ that heals our blindness caused by complacency, sin and what Jesus called an obtuse spirit.
Bartimaeus did not enter a system, he saw Jesus and his whole life changed at that moment. We must pray for the same thing. The Lord gave us the sacraments so we could see him more clearly. Let us pray this week that the Lord will open our eyes so powerfully that each one of us is never the same, our faith is never the same, our parish is never the same and our community is never the same. After all, that may be the lesson that Mark is actually teaching in his story of Bartimaeus.