From darkness to light

Al Cariño
30th Sunday in Ordinary Times
Reproduced with Permission

The gospel talks of a man named Bartimaeus who begged by the roadside of Jericho (Mk. 10:46-52). Though blind, he was not deaf. Thus he had heard about Jesus and the wonderful things -- the miracles -- He had been doing. Now this same Jesus was passing his way. "Perhaps He could help me," he said to himself. So, over the din of the crowd, he shouted with all his might, "Son of David, have pity on me." The crowd, irritated by his shouting, told him to stop. Even though he was used to being pushed around, he would not allow himself to be treated that way this time since he did not want to be robbed of his one chance to get out of his misery. Rather than stop, he shouted all the more and louder.

Jesus then called for him and asked, "What do you want me to do for you?" Encouraged, he acted differently. Instead of asking for money or food as he used to, this time he asked for something more important - and this so that he would not have to beg again: "Master, I want to see." In response Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has healed you." Forthwith, he was healed.

In the narration of the story, the evangelist Mark uses the word "call" three times. Thus this story is also about Bartimaeus' calling, his vocation. If we place this story beside that of the rich, young man about whom Mark spoke earlier, we can see the contrast between the two in responding to the call of Jesus. The young man went to Jesus with the arrogance of the rich saying, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" The blind man went to Jesus with nothing but his misery saying, "Son of David, have pity on me." Though both were called by Jesus, in the end, one had his darkness turned into light while the other, in the words of the gospel "went away sad, for he had many possessions."

Like the blind beggar, many people today are also blind though not necessarily in the physiological sense. Like the rich young man, they are blinded by the attractions of wealth and everything that goes with it. Their preoccupation with it and its pursuit have left them blind to the interventions of God in their lives.

Jesus pronounced his "woes" on the rich not so much because they were bad people but because they were often blind of heart. In this regard, a story is told of a rich man who saw a beggar on the street as he was going home for dinner. As there was plenty of food on his table, he was much troubled by the thought that the beggar had none. The rich man became angry at God for not taking care of the poor and said, "God, why do you allow this? Why don't you send someone to give the beggar some food?" God replied: "Oh, yes, I have. Why do you think I created you?"

Wealth blinds. It blinds because, as our story shows, it does not permit one to see where his true values as a creature of God lie. It blinds because, being engrossed only with himself, it does not permit him to see the needs of others and his responsibilities towards them.

All the past years, Bartimaeus had lived in want. Unknown to him, living thus had provided him not only with countless opportunities for self-denial but also to help others similarly situated. It had also made him open to the action of the Provider of all things as well as to His will, knowing that His interventions will be for his good. But not so the rich man.

In restoring the sight of the blind man, Jesus has shown that He is the Light of the World, that He alone can take out the blindness of the heart. Having been touched by Jesus, Bartimaeus followed Him. Where? All the way to Jerusalem where, a few days later, Jesus was arrested, underwent His passion, was put to death only to rise again on the third day. He learned then that to follow Jesus meant to follow Him all the way, even unto death, so as to rise again with Him in glory.

The same is true with us. To follow Jesus means to reflect in our own lives His passion and death. Since the roots of our blindness are found in our pride and egoism or selfishness, the only adequate way to expose these roots to the light of the truth is through the suffering and humiliation we go through -- the crosses in our life. Thus pain and humiliation accepted in faith become the antidotes to our pride and our self-centeredness.

This was what awaited Bartimaeus as he began living the passion and death of Jesus in his own life. This is what awaits us, if we are to follow Jesus. And to remain on course till we attain our own resurrection, we need to be linked to Him, the "Light of the World." Let our prayer then be, "Master, I want to see," namely, that we may not only see with the light of the Light of the World but also for Him to flood our darkness with His light. Then in the end we will rise with Jesus in glory.