Are You Blind?

24 October 2009: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 31, 7-9; Psalm 126; Hebrew 5, 1-6; Mark 10, 46-52

The readings today tell us about movement. The first reading from Jeremiah is part of a series of poems celebrating the return from the Babylonian Exile. This hymn stresses the return of the weak, the blind, the lame, and the pregnant mothers among those coming back from exile. We can indeed say that they are on their way home. Similarly, the Gospel today tells us that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem with his disciples and a great crowd. As Jesus passes through Jericho, Bartimaeus regains his sight. Eventually, Bartimaeus joins Jesus and follows him on the road.

But there is an inner movement too. The experience of the exile is like the experience of blindness; and the experience of restoration is like the clarity of vision. Just as Yahweh was the chance to escape from the Babylonian Exile, Jesus was the chance for Bartimaeus to escape from his world of darkness. And thus, we learn that only God is our chance to escape from what imprisons us — our sins, our painful past, our false securities, our obsession over success and our spiritual blindness. Only when we follow Jesus on the road towards Jerusalem can we regain our freedom. Let us look at the Gospel and see certain steps towards freedom.

First, determination. Nothing would prevent Bartimaeus from taking his chance at Jesus, even the silencing of the crowd. Bartimaeus was insistent and desperate. If we watch television contests, we see long lines of people auditioning, often braving hours of patient waiting. Nothing would stop them from taking their shot at stardom and from the possible recognition of their talents. And so should we: the road to Jerusalem is the road to the cross. On this road we may encounter difficulties. Think of those returning from exile: they must have questioned their capacity to rebuild their nation and their uncertain future. Think of Bartimaeus: he must have feared that his cries would be drowned by the noise of the crowd. But they have one thing in common: persistence and determination.

Second, an immediate response to the call of Jesus. Bartimaeus grabbed his chance quickly and instantaneously. People say that when your chance comes your way, do not have second thoughts, because certain opportunities come only once. There are many times when we desire to abandon bad habits or to resolve certain strained relationships. And when the occasion comes, our fears overtake us and we retreat from it. How many times have we neglected an opportunity and then regret not taking it? A pass-over opportunity does not come back.

Third, a clear desire. Bartimaeus knew what he wanted. St. Ignatius tells us that when you pray, be clear with what you desire and ask God to grant it. This is a fact of life: Those with clear goals are those who make it there. Thomas Henry Huxley defended Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. He was bold and convincing and he traveled to give lectures usually challenging several truths Christians held very sacred. After one of his lectures, he hurried to catch his train, and took one of Dublin’s horse-drawn taxis, and settled to rest his eyes for a few minutes. He said to the driver, “Hurry, I’m almost late. Drive fast!” The horses galloped rapidly and before long they were going west. Henry leaned forward and asked the driver, “Do you know where you’re going?” The driver yelled, “No, sir, but I am driving very fast!” All actions are meaningless unless it has direction or a clear desire that organizes them. Rollo May said, “It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.” Clear goals and desires keep us on the road.

Let us see what aspects of ourselves prevent us from moving towards God. And perhaps learn from the readings today how we can fix our gaze on Jesus and follow Him on the road to our Jerusalems.

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