30th Sunday of the Ordinary Time Readings: Jer 31:7-9; Heb 5:1-6; Mk 10:46-52
One of the places we visited during our pilgrimage to the Holy Land last week was Jericho, a city located near the Jordan River in the West Bank. Although it is disputed, it is claimed Jericho may be the oldest continuously occupied city in the world, and it is also the oldest known walled city in world. This is the place where our Gospel this Sunday happened. Jesus healed a blind man named Bartimaeus in this city on his way to Jerusalem.
Jericho was only about 24 kilometers from Jerusalem. The main road ran right through Jericho. Jesus was on his way to the Passover. When a distinguished Rabbi or teacher was on such a journey it was the custom that he was surrounded by a crowd of people, disciples and learners, who listened to him as he discoursed while he walked. That was one of the commonest ways of teaching.
It was the law that every male Jew over twelve years of age who lived within 24 kilometers of Jerusalem must attend the Passover. However, it was clearly impossible that such a law should be fulfilled and that everyone should go. So those who were unable to go were in the habit of lining the streets of towns and villages through which groups of Passover pilgrims must pass to bid them godspeed on their way. So then the streets of Jericho would be lined with people, and there would be even more than usual, for there would be many eager and curious to catch a glimpse of this audacious young Galilaean who had pitted himself against the assembled might of orthodoxy. At the northern gate sat Bartimaeus a blind beggar. He heard the tramp of feet. He asked what was happening and who was passing. He was told that it was Jesus. There and then he set up an uproar to attract Jesus’ attention to him. To those listening to Jesus’ teaching as he walked the uproar was an offence. They tried to silence Bartimaeus, but no one was going to take from him his chance to escape from his world of darkness, and he cried with such violence and importunity that the procession stopped, and he was brought to Jesus.
Let us look at situation of Bartimaeus. He was blind and basing from his request to Jesus when he said, “Master teacher! My prayer is that I might see again,” we can deduce that Bartimaeus was not born blind unlike the one in another Gospel incident in John 9:1-12. If we try to compare the degree of depression between a person who is blind at birth and a man who was able to see at first but then lost his sight, we can say that the latter has a high degree of despair that the former. Now we understand why Bartimaeus was so desperate upon knowing that Jesus, the miracle worker, was passing by his place. He tried to reach out to Jesus as best as he knew how, that is, to shout and to seek help from those around him.
But instead of getting help from those around him, Bartimaeus got just the opposite. Instead of getting support from the crown, he got abuse and outright rejection. Many people yelled at him and told him to keep quiet. And the only person who came to Bartimaeus’ aid was no other than Jesus himself. When Jesus heard the people shouting at Bartimaeus, he stopped and asked that Bartimaeus be brought to him.
There is the sheer persistence of Bartimaeus. Nothing would stop his clamour to come face to face with Jesus. He was utterly determined to meet the one person whom he longed to confront with his trouble. In the mind of Bartimaeus there was not just a nebulous, wistful, sentimental wish to see Jesus. It was a desperate desire, and it is that desperate desire that gets things done.
His response to the call of Jesus was immediate and eager, so eager that he cast off his hindering cloak to run to Jesus the more quickly. Many a man hears the call of Jesus, but says in effect, “Wait until I have done this,” or “Wait until I have finished that.” Bartimaeus came like a shot when Jesus called. Certain chances happen only once. Bartimaeus instinctively knew that. Sometimes we have a wave of longing to abandon some habit, to purify life of some wrong thing, to give ourselves more completely to Jesus. So very often we do not act on it on the moment–and the chance is gone, perhaps never to come back.
From what Jesus did to Bartimaeus, we can say that God is not like humans who admire the strong and healthy and disregard the weak and defenseless. He does not leave anybody behind. He is not like some school teachers who lose courage, and stop explaining things to the less gifted once the bright ones have understood. God takes an interest in the needs of all and pays particular attention to the poorest.