HOMILY Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A Oct 27, 2018
I would like to look at today’s Gospel, the story of the healing a blind man in Jericho. All three of the Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke - have this story.
But there are some differences. Matthew has TWO blind men who are healed, so you get two for the price of one. Luke has basically the same story.
But Mark has some individualities or peculiarities of his own. I would like to mention three.
Only Mark mentions that the blind man is a beggar. Most blind peole in the ancient Near East were probably beggars, but Mark mentions it. This is interesting because two weeks ago in the Gospel we heard about a rich man who comes to Jesus looking for something, and now we hear about a beggar.
Only Mark gives this beggar a name: Bartimeaus. The name in Hebrew literally means “Son of Timeaus” but Mark spells it out for his audience, “son of Timaeus”. Maybe Timaeus was known to Mark’s community? In any case this is in contrast to the rich man from the Gospel two weeks ago, who did not have a name. If you remember my homily then I gave him a name: “WINSTEAD.” If you missed it you can read my homily on my blog.
And third, only Mark mentions that the beggar “threw aside his cloak”.
I think Mark wants us to pay attention to these details. He doesn’t give us many details, so when he does we should pay attention.
First, Bartimeaus is a beggar. He doesn’t have much. In fact, the cloak may be one of his very few possessions. But Bartimeaus is willing to let go of everything to come to Jesus This is different than Winstead, the rich man in the Gospel two weeks ago.
Anyone here old enough to remember on Star Trek the Romulan cloaking device that the Klingons got hold of? Or are you old enough to remember Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility? Cloak represents hiding, covering up, keeping secret, “cloaking” something.
What was this Bartimeaus hiding? His shame at being a beggar? Was his cloak his “tough man” image, that he did need anyone? Or was he hiding his sense of hopelessness? Whatever it is, Bartimeaus can’t come to Jesus till he stips off that cloak. Winstead the rich man could not let go of his defensive shield, his wealth. But this beggar, Bartimeaus, can let go of his cloak, probably all he has, and reveal his true self to Jesus. He strips off his façade, his public display, and stands before the Lord revealed in his true self. He needs to become spiritually naked and vulnerable to truly be open to Jesus’ healing power.
Then Jesus asks a very odd question: “What do you want me to do for you?” Huh? Oh I don’t know, make me win the lottery, have the Longhorns win the Rose Bowl, get me a new car? I mean, the guy is BLIND, what do you think he wants??
But Bartimeaus has to say, “I WANT TO SEE”, because the Gospel is not talking solely, or even primarily, about physical sight. In the Bible seeing is always about coming to FAITH. This is a miracle about seeing WHO Jesus truly is. The healing is not primarily physical site but spiritual insight.
And the result? Bartimeaus followed Jesus on the way. THE WAY. Unlike Winstead the rich man who could not let go his wealth, his defenses, and so was incapable of being free enough to follow Jesus on the way, Bartimaeus tosses aside his cloak, and follows Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, these stories about the young rich man and Bartimaeus the blind beggar are NOT about something long ago and far away.
They are about US! You and me. All of us, spiritually, are blind, or have blind spots.
We come to the Lord not rich and powerful and full of our own accomplishments like the rich young man in the Gospel two weeks ago, but rather the fact is we are more like Bartimeaus, a beggar. Blind. That is who we really are.
But we also loved.
However, we cannot let that love in if we hide ourselves behind our cloak of independence, of self-sufficiency, of being really upstanding stalwart Catholics, of being good people, of cloaking our need with our so-called accomplishments and possessions.
Bartimaeus is an example for us. He cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
The people around him say, “Oh, that’s not polite. You’re making a disturbance. That is not modern and enlightened. It is not fashionable. You’re making yourself look stupid. Get over it.”
But Bartimeaus pays them no attention. What does he do? He cries out all the louder. “Son of David, have pity on me!” Bartimaeus teaches persistence. Hang in there.
The result? He followed Jesus on the way. THE WAY means not the physical road, but the Way of Christ, that is, Christianity. The earliest name the Christians used for their movement was “THE WAY”. Bartimeaus is converted.
The Gospel today invites you, challenges you, to recognize that you are blind and that you are a beggar. That you are just like Bartimaeus. Throw off that old cloak, that mask, that image you use to hide your true self from others, from yourself, and most importantly from the Lord. Cry out for His mercy. Jesus will heal you, so that you may truly see: see who you really are, whose you really are, and to see the overwhelming, incredible love God has for you in Jesus Christ.
Then you will be able to follow Him joyfully on the way. AMEN.