The Gospel concludes the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem that was inaugurated by the healing of a blind man (8:22-26), which symbolizes the journey of discipleship for followers of Jesus. It also provides a contrast to the failure of the disciples throughout the journey and presents a mini-drama of the path to faith. The narrative erupts with action. The blind man sits begging; he hears and cries out with a cry for saving help, Jesus, Son of David have mercy [pity] on me. Many, most likely the followers of Jesus from Mk 10:46, rebuke him, but Jesus stops and simply says call him. Others speak out and tell the blind man, Take courage; Jesus is calling you. Bartimaeus then throws off his cloak, jumps up and comes to Jesus. In response to Jesus’ simple question, What do you want? he says, That I may see. Echoing his earlier response to the suffering woman (5:34), Jesus says, Go your way; your faith has saved you, but the man does not go his way; he follows on the way with Jesus.
Bartimaeus is one of those little people of faith in Mark who embodies true discipleship in contrast to the blundering disciples. The narrative may also reflect stages in the journey of faith of many in Mark’s community. A person is in dire need, blind and begging; he or she hears of Jesus, utters a prayer for help, meets strong opposition, but persists in prayer (kept calling); others in the community help the person and speak of the call of Jesus; Bartimaeus throws aside his cloak (symbolizing perhaps the baptismal divesting); a meeting with Jesus brings the gift of sight, and the person becomes a disciple.
This Gospel could be an acted parable of journeys to faith for many people who are being initiated into the church as adults. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and other programs that help nominal or lapsed Catholics to return are among the most vital movements in the church today. These are Scripture-based, as people hear of Jesus, and generally are lay directed. Millions of people at different stages of life sit by some road, not able to see where they are going. Through friends or by other promptings of God’s Spirit, they hear of Jesus; opposition often follows. Still others enter their isolated world with encouragement (take courage); they throw off many old garments and come directly to Christ and hear his saving voice saying simply that their faithi.e., their loving trust and hope in the face of oppositionwill make them whole (save them). They become disciples in a community of disciples. These programs of entrance and return not only witness to the conversion of people to a deep understanding of God’s mercy and love; they also convert the converters, who as companions on the journey find their own faith revitalized.
• In moments when you cannot see the way ahead, place yourself with Bartimaeus and ask for Christ’s saving help.
• Pray in gratitude for those “little people” and unnamed saints, with us and departed, who have been your companions on the way of discipleship.
• Pray over the Beatitudes and think of those values that should inform your election choices.