“I WANT TO SEE AGAIN”: HOMILY FOR THE 30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (B).
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD
Once upon a time I asked people in the congregation to indicate which physical challenge could be considered worst among the following: the blind, the deaf/dumb and the lame. As anyone would expect, there were various inputs; nay answers. However, those that spoke in favour of the blind were very few. I believe that the sense of sight is highly valued by a greater number of people because we all like to see things, people and events around us whether good, bad or ugly. We are in fact living in a world that is saturated with “sightable” phenomena! From the television to computers and mobile devices, the story remains the same; we want to see!
There was this blind beggar along one street who had an inscription by his side with the words: “HELP ME I AM BLIND”. Once in a long while someone will stop and drop a coin into his plate and he will say “thank you”. One man came across him, stood for a while and after examining the inscription he took it, turned the back and wrote something and left. After few minutes the blind man started getting so much patronage from people as he almost got tired of saying: “thank you”. Towards evening that man who changed the inscription came back and the blind man recognized his footstep and asked him what he wrote that made a lot of people to patronize him that much and the man said that he wrote: “TODAY IS BEAUTIFUL BUT I CANNOT SEE IT!” This inscription made many people who saw it to appreciate the fact that they could see.
In the gospel reading today we encounter our Lord Jesus Christ again on the move. He seemed to be running a mobile ministry unlike our contemporary location based ministries with imposing edifices. Jesus used any available space for preaching, consultation, prayer and counseling. Today on his way from Jericho to Jerusalem to attend the great Passover a lot of people followed him as well as his disciples. The presence of Jesus brought a lot of people out as he was teaching while taking the 15 miles trek to Jerusalem. No doubt the sick, beggars and other people also came out with their personal reasons which could have included but not restricted to asking for alms. Among the lot was a man St. Mark called Bartimeus son of Timaeus, a name which has two meanings. In Aramaic it meant “son of defilement”, while in Greek it meant “son of honour”. People could have given him the name because of his situation; of course such challenges were seen as punishment from God on account of sin and defilement. Bartimaeus was a blind beggar and when he heard that Jesus was passing by, he came out and began calling out to him: “Jesus son of David have pity on me?”
The name or title he gave to Jesus was very significant. The title “Son of David” describes the Messiah (Isa. 11:1-5 Rod out of the Stem of Jesse; Jer. 23:5-6 David’s Righteous Branch; Ezek. 34:23-24 A Shepherd like David). Furthermore, Messiah means Saviour. In essence Bartimaeus was actually saying “Saviour there is someone here who needs to be saved!” As he shouted for help something happened! The people around him tried to stop him. For them the son of defilement is not qualified to talk to the Son of God. For them Bartimaeus was so low to have anything to do with Jesus Christ. But he ignored the crowd and shouted all the more. Sometimes in life we face oppositions on our way to our positions. They may come as discouraging voices like the ones that hushed Bartimaeus; but he was not discouraged. There is a YES somewhere in your life, but for you to get to it you may experience a lot of NOS do not be discouraged.
Bartimaeus believed in the word of God in Jeremiah (33:3) which says: “call to me and I will answer you and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know”. He was also attentive to Isaiah (58:9) which says: “when you pray, I will answer you, when you call to me I will respond”. He may have heard about the promise in John 14:14 which says: “Whatever you ask in my name I will do it” He trusted in the words of Matthew (21:22); “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believing you shall receive”. He was attentive to the command in Luke (11:9): “I say unto you ask and it shall be given to you”. Bartimaeus’ cry appeared like he was saying:
Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.
Savior, Savior, Savior
Hear my humble cry,
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.
This cry must have touched Jesus in a personal way. Firstly he was called by his proper title and secondly he was called to do what was prominent in the Manifesto of the Messiah (Luke 4:18); to give sight to the blind! The productive thing he had to do was to stop his journey and attend to a faith-filled man who needed a divine touch. Our Lord needed to stop to attend to a would-be disciple of his. He needed to stop to bring light to the darkened world of Bartimaeus. Our Lord then asked him to come! Instantly, with the encouragement of those who despised him earlier he jumped up and throwing his cloak away he ran to Jesus. We need to examine the story so far! His persistence brought about the attention of Jesus and consequently he was invited by him. It is worth noting that those who hushed him down earlier changed their words. They moved from hushing to helping. This is very true in our lives, if we refuse to be distracted by criticisms and focus on our goal those who shouted at us saying: “who are you?” will turn back with a mild voice to ask us:”how are you?” It is also very significant to note that Bartimaeus threw away his cloak before running to Jesus. The cloak served as his mattress, blanket and pillow. It was his comforter. With the call from Jesus he discarded that material comfort and went to embrace an eternal comfort. On our way to answer the call of Jesus there is need for us to discard our material comforts. There is need for us to move away from those comfort zones. There is need for us to move to a new position. We cannot be doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. Bartimaeus had to do things differently in order to get a different result.
Coming to Jesus was not enough as Bartimaeus was expected to be specific in his request. Jesus thus asked him: “what do you want me to do for you?” Jesus knew he was a blind beggar but he wanted him to make his request a specific one. Perhaps he wanted financial assistance not divine healing. This is a lesson for us to be specific in our requests. Generalizations would not help us: “I want God to bless me, I need divine assistance, I want things to get better etc”. These are generalizations. You must be as specific as Hannah (I Sam. 1:11). Bartimaeus was very specific: “I want to see again!” That was very a very specific and focused request and it actually got the approval of our Lord as he told him to go as his faith had saved him. This is a pointer to us that Bartimaeus came to Jesus not only with a specific request but also with a deep faith.
The next point of interest is the action of Bartimaeus after receiving his sight. We are told that he followed Jesus Christ. That meant that he became a disciple. He did not run back to reply his critics, he did not run to his home to make case against those who may have taken away his properties. He rather saw clearly the right person to follow (Jesus Christ-the Saviour) and the right place to go (Jerusalem- the rain of Peace). Bartimaeus could not have made a better choice than the choice of following Jesus. Turning to ourselves we ask: “what do we do when we receive favours from God?” Do we turn to him in appreciation and follow him wherever he leads us or do we take a vacation from him to take care of our material and selfish interests. There is no doubt that many of us are seriously indebted to God for innumerable favours we have received. There are some of us who have never processed to the Alter for thanksgiving to God for His blessings in our lives.
From all indications there is need for us to have our sights back! We may be physically seeing but morally and spiritually we may be blind. Our ingratitude to God and to our fellow human beings are borne out of inner blindness. Our inattention to the word of God is a product of severe spiritual blindness. Like Bartimaeus some of us are sitting comfortably by the roadside of life without realizing that we are blind, and that we need to get up, get back our sights and move ahead with the Lord into the Jerusalem of peace. Some of us are still focusing of the crowd and their discouragement instead of calling out on the Lord. Some of us are still covering ourselves with the cloak. We have to throw away the cloak covering our sins and come to God the way we are in order to get to the next level. Some of us have refused to call on the Lord as he is passing by. There is still time, even today as we encounter him at the Eucharistic table. Do not allow him to pass you by without effecting that healing in your life; without giving you back your sight! O Lord heal us so that we may see!
Happy Sunday and have a splendid week ahead!