Fr. Paul's Homily
“How can I help you?” It is a good question to ask and a great question to hear. We have come to expect this question at the Customer Service desk or at the drive through lane, but what if that questions governed our lives? What if every day we lived by this question, allowing it to guide all our encounters? And what if we heard this question expressed to us by the eternal, all powerful Son of God? What would we say? Let’s take a few minutes with this question.
In the Gospel today, Jesus is leaving the city of Jericho that has a large wall that completely surrounds it, allowing entrance or exiting through only a few gates. As he exits the city through one of the gates, he encounters a blind beggar. This would not have been unusual since begging was an approved form of welfare in Jesus’ day and individuals were given permission to beg, usually at a city gate. They were even given a “Beggar’s cloak” to wear.
The blind beggar, Bartimaeus, cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” It is an interesting way to address Jesus since Son of David was not a common title given to him. David was the great king and it was believed that the Messiah would be of the lineage of David. Thus, Bartimaeus is not simply calling out for help, he is actually expressing some level of faith in calling out.
Jesus calls him over and the reading says that he, “Threw aside his cloak, sprang up and came to Jesus.” Can you feel the enthusiasm in these words? He is eager to meet Jesus. There is also tremendous faith because the cloak that he cast aside was his beggar’s cloak which gave him permission to beg. By casting it aside, he is placing total trust in Jesus’ ability and desire to heal him.
As he stands before the Lord, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” It would seem to have been an unneeded question since Bartimaeus was obviously blind. But Jesus still asked it, not because he needed to know, but because Bartimaeus needed to say it: “Lord, I want to see.” Once again, Bartimaeus expresses faith and trust in Jesus, and so Jesus says in return, “Go your way, your faith has saved you. And immediately his sight returned and he followed him on the way.” It is insightful to note that early Christian was sometimes called “The Way.” Perhaps, Mark is telling us that Bartimaeus followed the path of Jesus, becoming his follower. Bartimaeus had found not only his sight, but a new Way to live…Jesus’ Way.
So, where do we fit into this story? Maybe we are not blind beggars, but are their times when we truly feel lost? When spiritual sight has abandoned us and we don’t know where to turn. I think, “Being Lost” is one of the true epidemics of our time. There is so little clarity in life; we question the reality of God and who God is; we question the purpose of life, if there is a purpose; we question traditional values of family and marriage; we question life after death and how our behavior affects this life; we question God’s love when tragedy hits. Now, let me say, that questions are often times helpful because they cause us to search and to seek out. But when questions are constant and we find no answers, we can sometimes begin to feel total lost; a ship without an anchor that simply drifts.
If we have known this sense of blindness, then maybe we too need to call out with faith to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Remember, Bartimaeus calls out with faith, not simply in need. Do we call out to Christ with faith that his Grace can help us, even in ways that we do not know? Where do we turn in our “Lostness” and do we look to God with faith?
I have often thought that Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?” is one of the most powerful questions in the Bible. Can we picture ourselves as the blind beggar, alone and isolated, barely scraping by, and can we image the voice of Jesus, filled with understanding and compassion, asking us this question: “What do you want me to do for you?” This is a question that calls us to get beyond our complaining, beyond our excuses, to the very heart of our spiritual hunger and need. Can we hear Jesus ask this question to us? How will I respond?