Jesus Calls the Blind Man
In this beautiful homily for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Father Hanly says Mark wants us to identify with the blind man and he wants us to know that this is what a disciple is expected to do.
First Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-9
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
Second Reading: Hebrews 5:1-6
Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
(Apologies, beginning missing)
…all these centuries ago and still exists there. The road is uphill and a winding path of seventeen miles to the city of Jersualem.
That’s very important because …
Do you remember last week when we talked about Jesus on the way to Jerusalem?
He only has one purpose this time to go to Jerusalem, and that is to be handed over, by his own people, to the Gentiles, who will scourge him, who will beat him, who will strip him of his clothing, who will hang him on a cross and drive nails through his hands and his feet.
And, having killed him, he will be buried. And Jesus says to them, “But I will rise again.”
Now, the disciples didn’t know what he was talking about, because two of them came up, the sons of Zebedee, his favourites, remember, and they said, “What we really want from you, Jesus” (not to give him sympathy, not to say, “I’m sorry, we will stay with you”), “What we really want is to be top men in your new kingdom. That’s what we want. We want the best places.”
How desperate it must have been to hear this.
And now here is little Bartimaeus, and Mark is going to tell us something very important.
Bartimaeus is blind and he’s on the street in Jericho and Jesus is now leaving Jericho, as Mark says, “going to Jerusalem,” you see.
And Bartimaeus cries out, “Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth.” And then he says, “Son of David, have mercy on me, have pity on me,” knowing that you don’t have to love me, because pity is very often much stronger than love.
And that’s a great appeal from a beggar on the street, surrounded by people yelling at him.
And they’re yelling at him now, because he never should have said those words, “Son of David, Son of David,” and drawn attention to the situation, because “Son of David” is a Messianic title and reserved only for the Messiah.
And, of course, this is one of the reasons why Jesus’ enemies have crowded around to destroy him, because he is claiming that he has come from God, and he is doing everything that the Messiah is expected to do.
And so it is the people are afraid that they might be surrounded by Jesus’ enemies as well. So they’re yelling at the little beggar and saying to him, “Keep quiet. Keep quiet. Don’t yell.”
And then Jesus sees him in the street and he stops and he calls him.
Mark wants you to know he calls the blind man.
Jesus in the midst of this outrage and fear that people can, by coming together afraid, they can drive you back into being blind and hesitant.
And the poor little man is standing there.
And then, all of a sudden, the people say, and they are smiling now, they say, “Yes. Get up, get up and go to him, because he is calling for you.”
And then he decides that it doesn’t matter what happens. A blind man has nothing to lose. Whether you are arrested or not, it doesn’t matter.
The one thing that matters is that Jesus calls and he calls him.
And he starts lunging towards the voice that he can hear, of the man he cannot see. And he throws his cloak aside as if all his whole previous life is being thrown away with the cloak. And he runs up to Jesus.
And Jesus smiles at him and he says to him, “What would do you want me to do for you?”
And then the little beggar says, “Lord, that I may see.”
And, suddenly, he can see. Jesus says nothing.
And he is so surprised and he blinks his eyes and he sees Jesus.
And Jesus says, “Remember this. Your faith has healed you. Your faith has healed you. And now go on your way.”
And Mark again is prodding us a little bit, because Jesus is on his way, and he invites the beggar to go on the beggar’s way, healed and maybe whole.
But the beggar, and Mark says immediately, the beggar stays. And the beggar goes with Jesus.
And where is he going?
He’s going on the road to Jerusalem, seventeen miles away, and there he will see the man that he worships as the Messiah, nailed to a cross, abandoned by everyone.
And Mark wants you to know that, for Mark, he’s abandoned by everyone, but the little man who is now seeing and was born blind, he will remain with the small gathering at the foot of the cross, because his faith will have healed him and he will know in his heart that it’s only a passage and in three days Jesus will rise from the dead and it will begin a whole new world.
Why is Mark interested in telling us about the little blind man?
Because he wants us to identify with him.
He wants us to know that this is what a disciple is expected to do, not like the others who wanted to be first and second and third in the Kingdom, and get all kinds of honour and glory, and have success and salvation, whatever that might mean.
He wants us to know that we must imitate the little blind man. All he asked, the only thing he wanted, was to see.
And to see…
What the little blind man wanted to see wasn’t just with his eyes. He wanted to see the one who could give him eternal life. He wanted to see the Messiah who was going to free the captives and make the blind see, not with their eyes, but with their hearts.
It is often said, and Jesus himself has said it…
And he says it to us. Every time we hear it we must think that he is speaking it to us.
He was saying it to the people of his day: “You have eyes, but you’re blind, you don’t see. You have ears, but you’re not listening.” And he would add, “And you have hearts to love, but you do not love.”
And Mark wants us to understand, today, that in a few short weeks we will finish our little journey with Mark into Jerusalem, where he will be hailed with the song they sang this morning, our choir did: “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to the King of David,” and that we, too, might, with great faith, ask God to help us to see clearly, to feel deeper, and to love with a greater love.
And for this reason, at the end of his novel “The Little Prince,” the French author quoted the final words of the little prince, in this lovely book that came out a long time ago, and the little prince says to the world, “It is only when you see with your heart, that you will see anything that is important and good in the world.”