“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.” (Mk 10:49-52)
The Gospel reading this Sunday recounts the story of Bartimaeus, a blind man sitting on a roadside who called out to Jesus as He departed from Jericho with a large crowd in tow. Bartimaeus not only called out to Jesus, he called out for “pity”; not only did call out for pity, he called out for “the Son of David”. This tells us that Bartimaeus was a faithful Jew who understood the ancient prophecies and believed Jesus to be of the tribe of Judah and the princely line of David, so that as prince Jesus could offer “pity” to His subjects.
Yet more than this Bartimaeus understood sacred scripture concerning the “anointed one”, the “Christ” or “Messiah” – the one who could give sight to the blind (Is 42:7). Bartimaeus reminds us of Tobit, a righteous Jew who became blind in a trial of faith and awaited the mercy of God (Tob 2:10; 11:11-13). Here however, the Son of God, the creator and master of Raphael (the savior of Tobit) arrives himself to save Bartimaeus. The crowd tried to silence Bartimaeus; they wanted to stay in the moment just as Peter desired to remain on Mount Tabor with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah (Mt 17:4). However, Jesus came to earth to fulfill the words of Isaiah and his resolute purpose would not be hindered.
St. Matthew in his gospel instructs us how we are to approach Jesus when we petition Him: with courage. More to the point Bartimaeus is told to “take” courage which indicates that he is to receive this virtue from the Holy Spirit who moves him to call out to Jesus. Through the gift of fortitude the faith of Bartimaeus is emboldened in this moment of reckoning; a moment which he has perhaps awaited many a year.
In order to help us gain an observance of such courageous faith, we place on our bulletin cover for this 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time a work entitled Healing of the Blind Man by Jesus, completed by the Danish master Carl Bloch in 1871. Bloch who trained at the Danish Academy, travelled through Italy, and was influence by the works of Rembrandt, became himself a painter in the genre style of Denmark. Thus, even his religious works tender a sense of everyday village life.
Here we see Our Lord depicted as healing Bartimaeus on the roadside of a walled street or passageway. One of the Apostles appearing just over the right shoulder of Jesus holds back the crowd. Over Jesus’ left shoulder two men watch in prayerful anticipation. Above the wall on the left are curious onlookers; while the men on the lower left of the scene take the posture of skeptics. Whether they will become believers or accusers of Jesus after the miraculous healing, we cannot say (Jn 9:15-18).
What we can say is that faith and courage are first cousins. Faith gives us courage, and courage stirs our faith.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services