30th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2009

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 25, 2009

Reading 1
Jer 31:7-9

Thus says the LORD: Shout with joy for Jacob, exult at the head of the nations; proclaim your praise and say: The LORD has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; 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. They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. For I am a father to Israel, Ephraim is my first-born.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6

R. (3)  The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those that sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Reading II
Heb 5:1-6
Brothers and sisters: Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: You are my son: this day I have begotten you; just as he says in another place: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mk 10:46-52
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.


Once, there was a General who wanted to cross a river. He was unsure of the depth of the river, and whether his horse could make it across the river. He looked around for help and saw a little boy nearby. He asked the boy for advice. The boy looked at the size of the General’s horse and paused for a moment. He then confidently told the General that it is safe for the General and his horse to cross the river. The General proceeded to cross the river on his horse. As he approached the middle of the river, he suddenly realized that the river was, in fact, very deep, and he almost drowned. After he recovered from his shock he shouted at the boy and threatened to punish him. The boy was stunned and innocently replied, “But General, I see my ducks crossing the river everyday without any problem, and my ducks have shorter legs than your horse”.

If you need advice, get it from people who know what they are talking about. Napoleon Hill says that, “opinion is the cheapest commodity on earth”. Make sure you review for yourself the opinion of others before you act on them.

“It is not the straining for great things that is most effective; it is the doing of the little things, the common duties, a little better and better.”

Jericho is on the way to Jerusalem for Jesus, but apparently nothing of interest happened while he was there. Upon leaving, however, Jesus encountered another blind man who had faith that he would be able to cure his blindness. This isn’t the first time Jesus cured a blind man and it’s unlikely that this incident was meant to be read any more literally than previous ones.

wonder why, at the beginning, people tried to stop the blind man from calling out to Jesus. I’m sure that he must have had quite a reputation as a healer by this point – enough of one that the blind man himself was obviously well aware of who he was and what he might be able to do. If that is the case, then why would people try to stop him? Could it have anything to do with him being in Judea – is it possible that the people here are not happy about Jesus? Were the people thought they were wiser than the blind man? Of course we would like to advise, pretend to know many things, but we need to know who knows. The blind man knew, but not the others. Others just blindly followed Jesus, but the blind man in spite of not seeing Jesus with his eyes, was already full of Jesus and knew that he can heal him.

It should be noted that this is one of the few times so far that Jesus has been identified with Nazareth. In fact, the only other two times so far came during the first chapter. In verse nine we can read ” Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee” and then later when Jesus is casting out unclean spirits in Capernaum, one of the spirits identifies him as “thou Jesus of Nazareth.” This blind man, then, is only the second to ever identify Jesus as such – and he’s not exactly in good company.

This is also the first time that Jesus is identified as a “son of David.” It was foretold that the Messiah would come from the House of David, but so far Jesus’ lineage has not been mentioned at all (Mark is the gospel without any information about Jesus’ family and birth). It seems reasonable to conclude that Mark had to introduce that bit of information at some point and this is as good as any. The reference may also harken back to David returning to Jerusalem to claim his kingdom as described in 2 Samuel 19-20.

Isn’t it odd that Jesus asks him what he wants? Even if Jesus weren’t God (and, therefore, omniscient), but simply a miracle worker wandering around curing people’s ailments, it has to be obvious to him what a blind man rushing up to him might want. Isn’t it rather demeaning to force the man to say it? Does he just want people in the crowd to hear what is said? It’s worth noting here that while Luke agrees that there was a single blind man (Luke 18:35), Matthew recorded the presence of two blind men (Matthew 20:30).

I think it’s important to understand that it probably wasn’t meant to be read literally in the first place. Making the blind see again appears to be a way of talking about getting Israel to “see” again in a spiritual sense. Jesus is coming to “awaken” Israel and cure them of their inability to properly see what God wants of them.

The blind man’s faith in Jesus is what allowed him to be healed. Similarly, Israel will be healed so long as they have faith in Jesus and God. Unfortunately, it is also a consistent theme in Mark and the other gospels that the Jews lack faith in Jesus – and that lack of faith is what prevents them from understanding who Jesus really is and what he has come to do.

I guess I am not much different from those folks. I really thought I was. They were so insensitive to this blind person. Those out front even had the boldness to hush that man into silence. The more I read this story though, the less and less I found myself to be different.

I would have been paying attention of my joys with Jesus rather than caring for the needs of someone on the outside. I personally wouldn’t have been one of those people out front telling this blind beggar to be quiet, but I would be thinking how I could keep as close to Jesus as possible. After all, I, like these other people have been greatly blessed by Jesus. My life has been transformed. There is no doubt about it. Jesus Christ has been good to me. It can’t be wrong to want to be close to Jesus.

Healing stories in the Gospels never seem to be simply a reversal of physical misfortune. A paralyzed man stands and walks. A man stretches out a withered hand to Jesus and sees it become useful again. A girl who was pronounced dead awakens. Particular suspicious are the stories of those who “once were blind, but now they see.” The connections between seeing and believing are so strong in the Gospel accounts that these miracles worked through Jesus almost always seem more about growing in faith than taking off dark glasses. Though Bartimaeus was blind to many things, he clearly saw who Jesus was.

Seeing “who Jesus is” is the goal of faith, and it leads to discipleship. Only the unblind can see where to follow. Indeed, at the end of the story we’re told that this is exactly what happened. Bartimaeus regained his sight and followed Jesus on the way. Given that the very next verse in Mark narrates the entry into Jerusalem, the way Bartimaeus followed was the way to the cross.

Physical sight is not required for discipleship, but restoration is. Again and again in history, prophesy and gospel, God works through miracle, through political forces, through social action and through ordinary living to pick us up from where we have fallen and redirect us along right pathways. Blind Bartimaeus calls from the gutter until the Lord hears him. Then he returns to the Lord and is restored. I picture him, the last recruit in the discipleship army, marching toward Jerusalem with palm branch in hand.

Those who return to the Lord are restored, the Bible instructs. But how do we come to the point of return? Sometimes we make it sound easy and quick. I’m fairly skeptical of the 180 degree, overnight kind of return. Some changes are no doubt fast and immediate, but the changes that endure unto the generations are the result of a process of human or divine origin. Our returning to the Lord for restoration is a process which may be described in many ways.

Decades later, we know that “troublemakers” become martyrs and a heroes, whose birthday is a national holiday. We continue to be amazed at our collective blindness to the effects of jealousy, partisan spirit, dirty politics. Well, when people try to malign you, ill treat you, sideline you, you are like that blind man. But you never give up.

These are the rhythms of reformation. The troublemakers become heroes. The radical new ways eventually become beloved traditions. We are always moving from blindness to sightedness, from unfaithfulness to faithfulness. On days such as this, I am less interested in how the Catholic Church was reformed. Reformations teach us that we continue to need reform.

What corners of the church, of society need serious reformation in this 21st century? Where are our blind spots? Will a reformer arise among us? Should one arise, what will we do to him or her? What do we allow to go unchallenged today that will one day cause our grandchildren to shake their heads at how blind we were to the gospel?

We disciples of Jesus have vision problems. We sometimes describe our blindness as an inability to see the forest for the trees, but that’s a compassionate analysis. More worrisome is the inherited blindness of each generation, which so often assumes as if it is the best generation of all, with no lessons left to learn, only an inheritance to enjoy. This arrogance is the root of our blindness. We still need the miracle of restored sight. We advise others through our blindness, and we lead them astray as the boy did to the General on the horse.