Although I’m not a particularly committed sport-viewer, it’s been impossible to not be touched by some of the stories coming out of the Invictus Games this week. We have heard tales of great courage in the face of adversity, and of a determination to turn lives around from complete loss of hope in the face of physical and mental damage often in the field of war, to find hope and possibility through healthy competition.
In today’s Gospel story of the blind man Bartimaeus, we find a very similar case of determination. Bartimaeus’ blindness had forced him to beg for a living beside the road. It had caused him to lose his freedom and his self-esteem, and had made him totally reliant on others. He sat there every day, beside the busy road between the major cities Jerusalem and Jericho, hoping that travellers would toss him a coin or two.
One day he hears that Jesus, the rabbi with a reputation for healing is walking along the road. As Jesus walks by, he cries out loudly for mercy. Many in the crowd try to shut him, telling this blind, possibly scruffy beggar to just keep quiet. Beggars, people who don’t fit in with the world’s norms are often pressed to keep quiet, and to keep out of sight so that they don’t offend our senses. This has happened so often with veterans suffering from the damage of war, who have often been expected to just ‘suck it up’.
But the story tells us that Bartimaeus refuses to keep quiet. He knows that Jesus can help him in his dire situation, so he keeps on crying out loudly for mercy, ignoring all attempts to shut him up. Finally, Jesus hears him and calls him over and as this blind man jumps up, asks him the question he asked of the disciples last week ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ There is such an outpouring of compassion and love in this simple question. And Bartimaeus, the man people tried to shut up, who was living on the sidelines of life, reduced to begging for a few coins for bread, is healed. He can see again. Jesus doesn’t just see this man as a piece of trash beside the road, but as a real human being. The story tells us, that Bartimaeus became one of Jesus’ followers that very day.
Jesus asks us the same question today and always ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He comes to us with compassion, and actually asks us what it is we need. Like Bartimaeus, we need to have the determination, the courage and the faith to bring our needs before him, and to ask with determination for healing of our bodies, our spirits and our minds.
In Peace, Mother Lynda
Gospel Reading: Mark 10: 46-52