But people must empty themselves of all, insofar as they can, so that however many supernatural communications they receive, they will continually live as though denuded of them and in darkness. Like the blind, they must lean on dark faith, accept it for their guide and light, and rest on nothing of what they understand, taste, feel, or imagine. All these perceptions are darkness that will lead them astray.
Faith lies beyond all this understanding, taste, feeling, and imagining. If they do not blind themselves in these things and abide in total darkness, they will not reach what is greater: the teaching of faith.
Saint John of the Cross
Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II, Chap. 4, no. 2 (excerpt)
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
In this Gospel, we read the moving account of Jesus’ encounter with a blind man as he was leaving the city of Jericho (cf. Mk. 10:46-52). Jesus was leaving the city, “with his disciples and a large crowd,” while a blind man named Bartimaeus “was sitting by the roadside” begging for alms (Mk 10:46); he was poor, marginalized, and outcast.
We are all a little like Bartimaeus, in need of love and light, often without the strength to go on living with hope and often blind to be able to see with clarity our reality and the reality around us.
Bartimaeus had nothing, but at least he kept in his heart the desire to see, the hope of regaining his sight and being able to get out of the ‘night’ in which he lived. There is no one blinder than the person who doesn’t want to see. In Jericho, Bartimaeus was the poorest of all, but he was not ashamed of being poor; rather, his poverty became his greatest strength.
Lying on the roadside he hears that Jesus is passing by; Bartimaeus doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet the Lord. He has heard about the Master and trusts that Jesus can do something to help him. So he cries out spontaneously and with great confidence: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mk 10:47).
“There is no one blinder than the person who doesn’t want to see.” @silviojbaez #GospelTweet
This cry of Bartimaeus comes from the depths of human misery. He cries out from the midst of his suffering, poverty, and marginalization. He cries out because he longs for the light and wants to be freed from his blindness so that he can see again.
But he also cries out because he needs to feel that he is someone; he needs to be looked at with love. He needs an encounter, an embrace. His cry born of loneliness and darkness wants to pierce the heavens and reach God, begging him to bend down and enter into his shattered, torn, and broken life.
Bartimaeus’ call to Jesus, “have mercy on me,” is a translation of a Greek expression that has become part of our Eucharistic liturgy through the phrase kyrie eleison, christe eleison: “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy”.
In the liturgy, we say this in the penitential rite but the phrase in the mouth of blind Bartimaeus doesn’t implore the forgiveness of sins; rather, it’s a plea for light for dim eyes — it’s a petition that begs for a way out of the gloom, for an end to the experience of loneliness, and condemnation to live in darkness.
“Jesus, have mercy on me” is a wonderful prayer that this blind man has taught us so that we may beg the Lord to give us a caress, a glance, and a new light to be able to see clearly.
The same people who previously tried to silence the blind man now speak to him with these three keywords: “Take heart; get up, he is calling you” (Mk 10:49). Let’s look at them one by one:
- Take heart is the virtue of courage that accompanies those who wish to begin again. It’s like saying: be confident, don’t be afraid, don’t feel alone or unworthy of being loved.
- Get up is an invitation to take life into your own hands. It’s like saying: everything depends on you, don’t doubt it, you can do it, don’t just lie there and remain prostrate and fallen.
- He is calling you is a phrase that tries to put you in personal, close, and affectionate contact with Jesus. It’s like saying: God isn’t indifferent; Jesus has noticed you, he’s here for you, and you’re not alone.
The blind man heard these words; and “throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus” (Mk 10:50). Still without sight, plunged in the darkness of his blindness, he does not hesitate for a moment. He leaps up in an act of “dark faith” and comes to Jesus.
He threw down the most precious thing he had, the only thing he possessed, his old cloak, a sign of his condition as an outcast (cf. Dt 24:13). He didn’t do what the rich man chose, the one who chose not to follow Jesus and turned away sad because he had many possessions (cf. Mk 10:17-31).
“We all have a little old ‘cloak’ that we don’t want to get rid of, that prevents us from approaching Jesus.” @silviojbaez #GospelTweet
This beggar left behind all his human security and threw himself towards Jesus, expecting everything from him. Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” to which the blind man replied, “My teacher, let me see again.” (Mk 10:51).
Then Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has made you well.” At that moment the blind man “regained his sight and followed him on the way.” (Mk 10:52). Certainly, it was Jesus who restored his sight; however, the Lord attributes the miracle to the blind man’s faith.
Trust and following Jesus not only heal but save Bartimaeus. His faith saves him. It’s the loving and welcoming presence of Jesus that gives us the faith we need to live: not only faith in God but faith in life, in ourselves, and others.
“It’s the loving and welcoming presence of Jesus that gives us the faith we need to live.” @silviojbaez #GospelTweet
This Gospel teaches us that Jesus always passes by our side, especially when we are on the edge of the road, on the brink of despair and anguish. And when Jesus passes by he is always waiting for us to tell him what he can do for us. Let’s not hesitate to ask Jesus with infinite trust like the blind man: “Jesus, have mercy on me.”
Being with Jesus, no blindness cannot be overcome, there is no failure forever plunged in defeat, no road that cannot be traveled. Let’s hear again from the mouth of Jesus those three keywords that changed the life of the blind man of Jericho and that today Jesus also addresses to us: “Take heart, get up, I am calling you.”
Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua
Homily, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (excerpts)
24 October 2021
All scripture references are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America as accessed from the Bible Gateway website.
Translation from the Spanish text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.
Featured image: Healing the blind man near Jericho is an oil on panel painting that was executed between 1470-1479 by the Master of the Gathering of the Manna in Utrecht, Netherland. We present a detail of the complete artwork in the collection of the Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht. The museum itself has quite a history since it was once a convent of Carmelite friars.