This Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, we share a Franciscan Gospel reflection and questions written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection October 28 2018. Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing.
Mark 10: 46-52
[They came to Jericho. And] as Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, he 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.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
In last week’s gospel, Mark described Jesus’ response to James and John, who asked for the seats of honor and power when Jesus comes into his glory. In his response, Jesus told them that Gentile rulers lord over those under them, thus making their importance felt. In contrast, He has come to be a servant and not to be served, and to give his life in ransom for the many. This week’s gospel text follows immediately after that text in Mark. Here Jesus is portrayed as living out what he has just instructed the disciples about himself, that he is the servant; he responds to the call of blind Bartimaeus.
Bartimaeus is very clever in how he has made his request. No doubt he has heard of Jesus’ reputation for healing; so he shouts out repeatedly, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Using the phrase does two things. By calling Jesus the “Son of David,” Bartimaeus acknowledges him as the messiah, who was foretold to be a descendant of David, and he links him with king Solomon, the actual son of David. Solomon was known as a wise and competent ruler. Second, by asking for mercy, in the language of the day he is asking for what is owed him, asking for a debt to be paid. The debt that needs to be repaid is the repeated public praise that he has given by using the title “Son of David.” If Jesus accepts the praise, he acknowledges the debt he owes Bartimaeus. Probably because the large crowd is blocking Bartimaeus from Jesus’ view, Jesus calls to him. The crowd, who are usually voiceless in the gospels, move from trying to silence Bartimaeus to encouraging him to approach Jesus. Jesus asks what he would have him do, and Bartimaeus tells him that he wants to see. Jesus tells him that his faith has saved him and to go on his way. Now Bartimaeus is in debt both to God who restored his sight and to Jesus who acted as the servant of God. In recognition of his debt, Bartimaeus now joins Jesus on his way to Jerusalem.
If we step back into Mark’s gospel, there is another beautiful facet of this gospel to discover. Recall the gospel from two weeks ago, the story known as the Rich Young Man. The man came to Jesus asking what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Although he had kept the commandments since his youth, he was unable to accept Jesus’ invitation to come and follow him because he had many possessions. The gospel says that he went away sad. (Mark 10:17-30) However, Bartimaeus, when he learns that Jesus is calling him, throws off his cloak, springs up, and comes to Jesus, never looking back. Beggars would usually spread their cloaks before them to collect coins that were tossed in their direction. Those hearing this gospel would assume that as Bartimaeus responds to Jesus’ invitation, the coins that he has collected are being tossed through the air as he jumps up. The contrast between the response of the two men to Jesus’ invitation is a delightful part of the text that might be overlooked.
Even earlier in his gospel, Mark recorded another story of Jesus encountering a blind man. (Mark 8:22-26) This central section of Mark’s gospel is framed by the two stories of Jesus encountering blind men. In this section of the gospel, Jesus has been revealing who he is and what events await him in Jerusalem. But the disciples have been unable to comprehend Jesus’ teaching, and they have needed to be instructed repeatedly on the role of being a disciple of Jesus. In these final verses before Jesus enters Jerusalem, Mark presents us with this Jesus who is the servant even of the blind and the outcasts, and Mark presents Bartimaeus as a model of the faithful disciple who leaves everything to follow Jesus to Jerusalem.
1. When the crowd rebukes Bartimaeus and tells him to be quiet, you…
2. Why would the crowd, who are normally looking to see some sign of Jesus’ power, tell Bartimaeus to be quiet?
3. Have you ever felt like others were trying to prevent you from having a voice?
4. Have there also been people who told you to “take courage, get up, he is calling you?”
5. Place yourself in the scene of today’s gospel. When Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants him to do for him, you…
6. And if Jesus were then to turn to you and ask you, by name, “what would like me to do for you?” You would respond…
7. Can you talk to God with the same honesty as Bartimaeus about the ways you experience being blind, about where God has given you sight, or about some other aspect of your relationship with God that arose from your reading of this gospel?