30th Week of Ordinary Time, year B:
The stories of the gospel are really our stories. Though the event and words took place many years ago in a land far away from here, these stories continue to speak to us today, the events in the gospel are just as relevant in our own lives as they were to those who lived them.
I think we are all Bartimaeus in one way or another. In a sense, his story is the story of the human person on the way to God. All of us can probably see ourselves at some stage in the Bartimaeus story.
The story begins with Bartimaeus sitting on the road, blind, and calling out looking for help. Isn’t this a great image for humanity! After the fall, because of Original Sin, aren’t we blind to goodness, aren’t we just sitting on the road, no longer moving toward goodness and fulfillment, but stuck in sin and death. Yet, we never lost that innate desire for God. As Augustine said so long ago, you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you. Everyone in the world is looking for God, we are all sitting on the path calling out for something more. Can’t we feel it? Don’t we want more than this? This life is good and the world is full of blessings and goodness, but in our hearts we are looking for more. This is not just us Christians, every human being has this ache in their hearts, many people try to fill it with money, pleasure, power, science, you name it. We are all searching for something more, but after original sin we can no longer find it.
Enter the person of Jesus. In today’s story, Jesus walks on the road past Bartimaeus. I think this this a beautiful way to think about the incarnation. Jesus comes to us, God walks among us. We are blind, but searching for God. So God comes to us, Jesus walks among us. God comes in search of humanity.
But, God never takes away our freedom. There is a part of this story that I always find hard to take. You almost get the impression that Jesus wasn’t going to stop. Jesus walks past the blind man, and only stops when he cries out. What does this mean? Yes, God comes in search of humanity, but he is only found by those who seek him. When Bartimaeus cries out for Jesus, Jesus stops, approaches him and invites him: what do you want me to do for you? I will often talk to people who tell me that they feel like they are kind of losing their faith. “I just don’t feel God anymore…” Now it is certainly the case that our spiritual life has its ups and downs, and we cannot rely too heavily on our feelings; but, I sometimes ask: have you been looking for God? If it seems like Christ is distant, it might be that he is respecting our freedom, he did not come to obliterate our freedom; rather, he comes in search of those who are seeking him.
When Bartimaeus seeks Jesus, he finds him, Jesus heals his blindness. By encountering Jesus, Bartimaeus finds what he has been looking for, so he gets up and follows him. Isn’t that why we are here today? We were looking for Jesus, we found him, and now we follow him. The last stage in this journey to be with him forever in the resurrection.
So it seems to me that in the gospel story we can see several different stages in life, and we are all probably at some different point along the way. Also, I think it is important to remember that most of the people we meet will probably be in a different stage than we are. But, make no mistake, we are all looking for God, and we find him in Jesus, we find him right here in this Holy Eucharist. And down to this very day, this very hour Jesus continues to approach us and ask us the same question: What do you want me to do for you?