“Master, I want to see,” Bartimaeus calls to Jesus. He is a blind man. He knows through his hearing that Jesus is going to be walking by the roadside where he sat. He leaps up and cries out. He calls Jesus “Son of David” and begs for compassion. Jesus hears his cry and replies: “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
The story is a story of faith. Jesus is the one who can help Bartimaeus, and he knows this. He calls Jesus the “Son of David,” which is a recognition of Jesus as messiah. Jesus is the anointed one who comes to restore Israel. God sends him to heal the sick, free the imprisoned, restore sight to the blind.
The healing of Israel foretold by Jeremiah is fulfilled in Jesus. Jeremiah had prophesied: “I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng.” Ultimately, Jesus is the way by which Israel is saved. When recognized with faith we can call out as the psalmist did: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”
The sight that Bartimaeus had restored was eyesight. He could now look around him and see the people with whom he spoke. He could see the sky and the fields. He could see the roadside. He could see the vast crowd. He could see Jesus. Wonderful and amazing as this is, the “sight” that is more important is the interior sight, his “insight” or “faith” that draws him to Jesus in the first place. When Bartimaeus heard it was Jesus of Nazareth walking by, he called out Jesus’ name and asked for help. He now sees face to face the one he had already encountered in his heart.
Bartimaeus’ response to his encounter with Jesus is deeper faith, so that it was not only his eyes that were opened. He now realizes that a new path lies open for him, a path to a fuller life. When Jesus cured Bartimaeus he told him: “Go your way, your faith has saved you.”
The “way” for Bartimaeus is now clearly seen. He is to stay with Jesus. The evangelist tells us that as soon as Jesus spoke those words, “Immediately he (Bartimaeus) received his sight and followed him (Jesus) on the way.” The faith that Bartimaeus first had led him to Jesus. The same faith is now deepened and the path is clear. Bartimaeus can see that Jesus is the way to life and so he follows.
We have the opportunity to encounter Jesus all the time. Yet we live in a busy and noisy world. Multiple responsibilities, the quick pace of life and the lack of silence can distract us from this encounter. A prime opportunity for this encounter comes, for many people, at the liturgy on Sundays. When we come to Mass prepared to encounter the Lord – when we come with faith – we have the opportunity to have our eyes opened to his goodness, compassion, mercy and love.
Hearing his word and celebrating the sacrament, our eyes are opened and we can be led deeper into the life he offers. The “sight” that we seek is much greater than that great gift of eyesight. When we come before the Lord we ask for insight into life. We ask for the gift of recognizing his abiding love and the many gifts that he has given us.
We thank him for the mercy with which he has blessed us. We ask for his guidance in making decisions. We seek his protection from anything that could harm us. We beg his compassion for our world, our families and ourselves. This is the encounter where we cry out with Bartimaeus: “Master, I want to see.”
And when our eyes are opened we leave that celebration seeking to follow him each day on the way and proclaiming again from the depth of our heart: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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