In today’s Gospel we have the interaction between Jesus and Bartimaeus – the blind beggar on the side of road. In the time of Jesus the blind man was ridiculed, he was an outcast from society – left alone and isolated. The Gospel describes how Bartimaeus yearns for the healing presence of Jesus as he encounters him on the road. Despite many of the crowd scolding him and telling him to keep quiet, the blind man begs for pity from Jesus and shouts even louder “Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me”. Notice how Jesus stops, reaching out in compassion and love as he calls for the attention of Bartimaeus – “Call him here”. The blind man has faith in Jesus. He believes Jesus can cure him, and throwing off his cloak, jumps towards him in anticipation of receiving a miracle. When Jesus asks him “What do you want me to do for you?”, Bartimaeus responds with a firm act of faith “Master, let me see again”. Jesus grants him the miracle of restored vision which he desired – by virtue of his faith, sending him forth with the command “Go; your faith has saved you”. As the encounter ends we are told that the blind man’s sight returned immediately and that he followed Jesus on the road.
The message of today’s Gospel underlines the importance of reaching out in faith and charity towards the underprivileged in society. Jesus challenges us to imitate him by responding with compassion and love towards those who are alone, suffering and outcast in our world. The message also challenges us to live with an attitude of gratitude, noticing what we have and giving thanks for it. The blind man, though he had little or nothing in terms of material goods, was rich in faith – and it was this faith that saved him. The greatness of God is very evident here. Like Bartimaeus, we too can be healed and renewed through our faith. We can be modern day witnesses of God’s light and truth by choosing to serve one another in simplicity and love; cultivating the values of justice, peace and reconciliation in society; and seeking first to respect the dignity of others in all our encounters.
Reflecting on this theme in his letter for the Year of Faith Pope Benedict says:-
Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path. Indeed, many Christians dedicate their lives with love to those who are lonely, marginalized or excluded, as to those who are the first with a claim on our attention and the most important for us to support, because it is in them that the reflection of Christ’s own face is seen. Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). These words are a warning that must not be forgotten and a perennial invitation to return the love by which he takes care of us. It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ and it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbour along the journey of life. Supported by faith, let us look with hope at our commitment in the world, as we await “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13; cf. Rev 21:1).
(Pope Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 11 October 2011)
(P M 2012)