Seeing the Son of David
Today’s Gospel turns on an irony—it is a blind man, Bartimaeus, who becomes the first besides the apostles to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. And His healing is the last miracle Jesus performs before entering the holy city of Jerusalem for His last week on earth.
The scene on the road to Jerusalem evokes the joyful procession prophesied by Jeremiah in today’s First Reading. In Jesus this prophecy is fulfilled. God, through the Messiah, is delivering His people from exile, bringing them back from the ends of the earth, with the blind and lame in their midst.
Jesus, as Bartimaeus proclaims, is the long-awaited Son promised to David (see 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 11:9; Jeremiah 23:5). Upon His triumphal arrival in Jerusalem, all will see that the everlasting kingdom of David has come (see Mark 11:9-10).
As we hear in today’s Epistle, the Son of David was expected to be the Son of God (see Psalm 2:7). He was to be a priest-king like Melchizedek (see Psalm 110:4), who offered bread and wine to God Most High at the dawn of salvation history (see Genesis 14:18-20).
Bartimaeus is a symbol of his people, the captive Zion which we sing of in today’s Psalm. His God has done great things for him. All his life has been sown in tears and weeping. Now, he reaps a new life.
Bartimaeus, too, should be a sign for us. How often Christ passes us by—in the person of the poor, in the distressing guise of a troublesome family member or burdensome associate (see Matthew 25:31-46)—and yet we don’t see Him.
Christ still calls to us through His Church, as Jesus sent His apostles to call Bartimaeus. Yet how often are we found to be listening instead to the voices of the crowd, not hearing the words of His Church.
Today He asks us what He asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Rejoicing, let us ask the same thing of Him—what can we do for all that He has done for us?
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
[The Lord said to Moses on Mount Sinai: «Let me see your glory!» He answered: «I will make all my beauty pass before you… But my face you cannot see» (Ex 33,18f).] Such an experience seems to me to belong to the soul which loves what is beautiful. Hope always draws the soul from the beauty which is seen to what is beyond… And the bold request which goes up the mountains of desire asks this: to enjoy the Beauty not in mirrors and reflections, but face to face. The divine voice granted what was requested in what was denied…: the munificence of God assented to the fulfilment of the desire but did not promise any cessation or satiety of the desire… The true sight of God consists in this, that the one who looks up to God never ceases in that desire. For he says: «You cannot see my face and live»…
The Life of Moses, II, 231-233, 251-253
But when the Lord who spoke to Moses came to fulfill his own law, he likewise gave a clear explanation to his disciples, laying bare the meaning of what had previously been said in a figure when he said: «If anyone wants to be a follower of mine « (Lk 9,23) and not “If any man will go before me.” And to the one asking about eternal life he proposes the same thing, for he says: «Come, follow me» (Lk 18,22). Now, he who follows sees the back. So Moses, who eagerly seeks to behold God, is now taught how he can behold Him: to follow God wherever he might lead is to behold God…
Someone who does not know the way cannot complete his journey safely in any other way than by following behind his guide. He who leads, then, by his guidance shows the way to the one following. He who follows will not turn aside from the right way if he always keeps the back of his leader in view. For he who moves to one side or brings himself to face his guide assumes another direction for himself than the one his guide shows him. Therefore God says to the one who is led: «My face is not to be seen», that is, «Do not face your guide». If he does so, his course will certainly be in the opposite direction… You see how it is so great a thing to learn how to follow God… No longer does any offense which comes about through evil withstand the one who thus follows him.
Pope Benedict XVI
Angelus Address, October 29, 2006
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 10: 46-52), we read that while the Lord passed through the streets of Jericho a blind man called Bartimaeus cried out loudly to him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”. This prayer moved the heart of Jesus, who stopped, had him called over and healed him.
The decisive moment was the direct, personal encounter between the Lord and that suffering man. They found each other face to face: God with his desire to heal and the man with his desire to be healed; two freedoms, two converging desires. “What do you want me to do for you?” the Lord asks him. “Master, let me receive my sight”, the blind man answers. “Go your way, your faith has saved you”.
With these words, the miracle was worked: God’s joy and the man’s joy. And Bartimaeus, who had come into the light, as the Gospel narrates, “followed him on the way”; that is, he became a disciple of the Lord and went up to Jerusalem with the Master to take part with him in the great mystery of salvation. This account, in the essentiality of its passages, recalls the catechumen’s journey towards the Sacrament of Baptism, which in the ancient Church was also known as “Illumination”.
Faith is a journey of illumination: it starts with the humility of recognizing oneself as needy of salvation and arrives at the personal encounter with Christ, who calls one to follow him on the way of love. On this model the Church has formulated the itinerary of Christian initiation to prepare for Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrism) and the Eucharist.
In places evangelized of old, where the Baptism of children is widespread, young people and adults are offered catechetical and spiritual experiences that enable them to follow the path of a mature and conscious rediscovery of faith in order to then take on a consistent commitment to witness to it.
How important is the work that Pastors and catechists do in this field! The rediscovery of the value of one’s own Baptism is at the root of every Christian’s missionary commitment, because as we see in the Gospel, those who allow themselves to be fascinated by Christ cannot fail to witness to the joy of following in his footsteps.
Saint Gertrude of Helfta
Exercises, no.6 ; SC 127
“Master, I want to see”
My heart and my flesh have exulted in you, my living God, and my soul has been gladdened by you, my true salvation… Oh when will my eyes see you, my God, God of gods? God of my heart, of when will you gladden me with the sight of your mellifluous face? Oh when will you bestow upon me the desire of my soul by manifesting your glory?
My God, my choicest portion, my strength and glory! Oh when will I enter into your might to see your virtue and glory? Oh when will you clothe me with the mantle of your praise instead of a spirit of sorrow so that, together with the angels, all the parts of my body may render you an exultant sacrifice? God of my life, oh when will I enter into the tabernacle of your glory in order that… my soul and heart may confess to you in the presence of all your saints that you have magnified your mercies towards me?… Oh when, after the snares of this death have been destroyed, will I personally see you without mediation…?
Who will ever be able to be sated with the sight of your brightness? How will the eye suffice to see or the ear to hear in wondering at the glory of your countenance?
( Biblical references : Ps 83:3; Ps 70:16; Lk 1:47; Is 61:10; Ps 26:6; Gn 19:19)