Today’s reflection is on the readings for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 28, 2018.
What’s in a name? In today’s Gospel Jesus encounters a blind man, a social nobody, an outcast, and a sinner. He meets Bartimaeus. Even Bartimaeus’ name reveals only that he is some else’s son. (bar means “son of”) Poor Bartimaeus really has nothing to offer anyone–not even a name of his own. But today Jesus changes all of that for him, and offers a promise to all of us.
Because Bartimaeus was blind, he was reduced to begging, poverty, and dependence on nothing more than the generosity of others. He cries out day and night in the hopes that someone might offer him something that will sustain him for the day. Any more than that and he becomes an easy target for thieves. He depends at every moment on the pity and generosity of others–a difficult and horrible way to live. Bartimaeus’ poor circumstances have paved the way for his encounter with Jesus Christ, and for salvation. Let’s see Bartimaeus’ three steps to salvation in Jesus Christ.
First, like Bartimaeus, we need to recognize our poverty and our need for Jesus. The Gospel writer tells us that Bartimaeus was a beggar on the roadside out of Jericho. Bartimaeus had no misgivings about his lot. He brought nothing of his own to his relationship with Jesus. Not fame, not fortune, only sadness and sorrow and difficulty. He knew that he needed. That’s a lot of our problem in our country. We’ve got it pretty good. Jesus makes it very clear, he has come for those who are sick. Bartimaeus knew he needed–do we? Or is earthly wealth and comfort blinding us to our need for spiritual healing and wholeness? It’s quite easy to begin to believe our Facebook profile!
Secondly, we need to cry out! Upon hearing news that Jesus was coming his way, Bartimaeus cried out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” We need to know that we need, and then we need to make our needs known! Jesus hears Bartimaeus call out to him! That is the power of prayer! If we’re not praying, we’re not being heard! Jesus makes it clear to his disciples that they must ask! It’s crazy that so many Christians spend so little time in prayer–me included! The whole Old Testament if filled with examples of God’s people crying out to Him for delivery–and then God delivers them. The New Testament is equally filled with those who cry out and are delivered. Prayer must occupy a central part in every believer’s life. Jesus asks Bartimaeus plainly, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus says, “Master, I want to see,” and then he does. Are you in need? What do you want? Ask.
Finally, Bartimaeus teaches us that we have to be courageous! Bartimaeus was surrounded by haters! Everyone kept telling him to shut up! I’m sure there were beggars like him saying, “Why bother, don’t you know we’re nothing? We’re nobody! Why would he help us?!” Bartimaeus didn’t care! He kept on crying out! Others in the crowd thought they were pretty important. They figured that if Jesus was going to talk to anyone it would be them! They too tell him to shut it! Undeterred by haters, Bartimaeus boldly and courageously called on Jesus to heal him and transform his life. Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
So there you have it, salvation through relationship with Jesus in three steps. 1. Recognize our need. 2. Cry out to Him. 3. Be courageous. I’d like to leave you with that, but the story does not end there, I’m afraid. Those who know their needs know that their needs do not go away. Those who know their needs don’t go away know they will be crying out to Him again. And those who cry out to him often will need constant courage–a gift of the Holy Spirit.
The final step, then, is to follow him on the way. To remain close to him always. The Gospel writer intentionally tells us that healing demands a willingness to follow Jesus–wherever he goes. St. Mark says, “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.”
Bartimaeus found Jesus, found humility, found his voice, and found his courage–and by doing so discovered his ultimate identity in being a son of God–and we can too. That’s his promise. In Jesus we are no longer son of Stephen, daughter of Janice. In Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, with humility, prayer, and courage we can all follow him–and so we must.
What earthly pleasures possess you, and keep you from recognizing your need for Jesus?
How much of your day is spent in prayer? How important is it for you to spend time alone with the Lord in prayer?
To what degree do you allow “haters” and “nay-sayers” to affect your relationship with God? Who are those in your life keeping you from a relationship with Jesus?
If you’ve been healed, are you following Him?