Bartimaeus: The Everyman by Rev. Paul Scalia
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me." And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me." Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you." He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see." Jesus told him, "Go your way, your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
We know very little about the people Our Lord healed. We know he healed many, but we hear few details about them. Any yet from each one of them we can learn something about ourselves and about the healing we need to receive from Jesus. Blind Bartimaeus is one such figure. If we pass over him as just a man our Lord healed, then we risk missing the significance of his appearance. He serves as a kind of "everyman" - an image of our wounded human nature seeking the healing that Christ brings. The scene is the drama of man in miniature, providing both a description of us ... and a challenge to us.
His condition, first, summarizes what sin has done to us. We are blind. Bartimaeus suffered a physical blindness. But we suffer a more severe kind: spiritual blindness. Original sin has introduced a blindness into our intellect. We do not see the truth of things - of God or of ourselves - as clearly as we should. Sin directs our sight to things below. By way of it we lower our heads, turning them away from our heavenly calling. And our own personal sins only aggravate this situation. Persistence in sin only blinds us more.
Like Bartimaeus, we are also beggars. We stand in need of God's mercy and grace. A beggar does not ask for something luxurious or frivolous. He asks for what he needs, for what he cannot live without. Such is our situation before God. We need the mercy that frees us from sin and the grace that brings us to heaven. And the worst fate we could suffer is to think that we are not beggars - that we are sufficient and adequate in all things, not in need of God at all.
Next, the cry of Bartimaeus gives voice to the longing of every human heart: "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!" whether we realize it, whether we allow them to be heard, our hearts cry out to Jesus. Only the Lord can satisfy that longing for peace that everyone experiences and that the history of man displays. The record of man's sorrow and the sadness we all experience is our human nature crying out with Bartimaeus, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!"
Further, "many rebuked him, telling him to be silent." So also many today do not like to hear our plea. The Church cries our for mercy. She begs the Lord to end the evils all around us - the assaults on life, the decay of society. She pleads with men to end their sin and turn to the Lord. But as the crowd once tried to hush Bartimaeus, so now the world wants the Church to be silent - lest she wake society's anesthetized conscience and disrupt its "progress."
The similarities end there. And the challenges begin. Given the summary of our human condition that Bartimaeus provides - that we find ourselves in him - we have to decide whether we will imitate him. Will we follow him in seeking the healing we need? He did not stop crying out to Jesus, but "kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me." Will we continue to cry out, even though the world may criticize and shun us? Will we allow the world to silence us?
Further, he did not allow his disability to keep him from Jesus. When he heard that our Lord was calling him, this blind beggar "threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus." A remarkable feat for a man so disabled. By that act he invites and challenges us to seek the Lord - who is calling us as well - no matter what the difficulties.
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