Seeing versus Understanding
With Bartimaeus today we plead: Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me! Master, I want to see.
And like Bartimaeus, we hope to win out. But in order to get there we need to imitate him in the manner of his asking. First of all, and more importantly, we need to recognize Jesus for who he is. By identifying Jesus as the “Son of David,” Bartimaeus is declaring his faith in him as the Messiah, The Promised One. This is not a simple calling out—it is a profession of faith. At the same time Bartimaeus is possessed in humility, a beggar sitting in the dirt. His declaration, without saying it, is one of desperate need and total dependence.
When we are praying to God for something that we have decided we need, I would dare say that we are rarely in Bartimaeus’ stance, or have his attitude. Most children would not expect to BEG (“pray,” if you will) to their parents for a glass of water; but to ask for the latest video game, now that might take some extra effort, if not downright plotting. By the way, kids, I don’t advise the “Why can’t I have it? Billy’s mom and dad got him one!” approach. My personal experience tells me, not only does that not work—it can evoke a very sharp response from mom and dad, accompanied by one of those “teachable moments,” if you know what I mean. Speaking of “teachable moments,” of course, that is exactly what today’s gospel “Jesus Moment” is all about.
We need to realize that the image of Bartimaeus is one of a man in prayer; the difference between then and now is that the God he is praying to is actually walking by him in the person of Jesus. My father always said that he never asked God for things, because he thought it was presumptuous and inappropriate. “God already knows what we really need—and those things he already gives us.” Only late in life did I come to appreciate my Dad’s innate humility and simplicity—a perfect disposition for prayer.
Certainly Bartimaeus sitting in the dirt along side the road is feeling anything but proud or arrogant. Like God beheld Mary in her lowliness, Jesus sees the blind beggar humbled and in need. A model for today, Pope Francis will raffle off his Fiat next January as a fundraiser for the poor. That will happen because like Jesus saw and heard Bartimaeus along side the road, Pope Francis sees and hears the poor.
What is it, after all, that Bartimaeus wants from Jesus”? He wants his sight restored, “Lord, I want to see.” He wanted his physical sight restored. Mark, however, tells of Jesus’ encounter with the blind man as a spiritual guide. He wants us to equate “seeing” with “understanding.” He wants us to pray that we might have Jesus’ way of seeing things. Now, “knowing Jesus’ way” or having his understanding—this we very much need. This is a gift that we really cannot live without. For me, the challenge this Sunday is to reflect on my own attitude and approach to prayer—especially when I am asking “for something.” And then I need to search my soul to detect any “blindness” that might be there—any blindness to what is God’s actual will for me is. So that’s homework for all of us.