Fr. Leo Pabayo .
THE healing of the blind man Bartimeaus in the Gospel according to St. Mark in last Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 10, 46-52) has a twofold meaning, the physical and the spiritual. This is so with the many other healings that the Lord does in the Gospels. For that matter, anything that happens in our life has these twofold meanings. It is therefore very important for us to develop the habit of reflection on the things that happen in our life. This can lead us to an insight into how to become better persons physically and spiritually. Thus for example in last Sunday’s Gospel according to St. Mark, our eyes are opened to some truths about how we are saved physically and spiritually by the Lord.
In the healing we just read, the name of the man healed, namely, Bartimeaus is given by the Gospel writer, St. Mark. In earlier healings the person or persons healed were not named. In the present healing the name of the man healed is given. What could be the reason for this? One reason could be because the writer of this Gospel was St. Mark. He was known to be close to St. Peter and wrote very significant things about St. Peter’s closeness to Our Lord. He was even referred to as the interpreter of St. Peter. Mark must have this knowledge of Peter’s closeness to Christ and had an intimate knowledge of the early Christian communities that St. Peter founded. Much of the Gospel that Mark wrote therefore must have been also of that community’s memory of the many healings that the Lord did for them. One of them must have been that of Bartimeaus.
St. Mark was also known for his brevity in the words that he used in recalling the community’s personal experience with the Lord. His Gospel seems to be the shortest of the four Gospels. What he has written was intended to bring out the message of salvation that was meant for the early Christian community. We can share in discovering this message if we care to meditate on it and allow its meaning to unravel in our mind.
In last Sunday’s Gospel the fact that Bartimeus, the blind man, was sitting by the roadside tells us that he was there by the roadside not only so that he can beg from the people passing by. He is there because he is waiting for the coming of the Lord of salvation. He is like those servants in the parable who were told by their master to wait eagerly but patiently for the return of their master, meaning to say that they ought to be vigilant to wait patiently for their master’s return and not be abusive with the weak in their ranks.
If they are on the watch out and wait they will eventually be saved. For Bartimeus the time for it came for when Jesus came to his town of Jericho. As Jesus comes “with a sizeable crowd with him he began to cry out, ‘Jesus son of David, have pity on me’.” He calls Jesus “son of David.” This implies that he is familiar with the prophecies that the Savior will be from the ancestry of King David.
The crowd around Bartimeus did not realize the great importance of this occasion for him. Some of them scolded him and told him to stop shouting and to keep quiet. But hearing the call, Jesus stopped and said “Call him over”.
The verse that follows is very meaningful for us who reads this Gospel. After telling him to keep quiet some of the people now tell him, “You have nothing to fear from him. Get up! He is calling you.” Why would they say, “You have nothing whatever to fear from him”. There are two possible reasons for saying that. One is that they have come to know Jesus as merciful and one whom they could always rely to help people in need. The other reason could be that although he badly needs the help of Jesus something in Bartimeus was also afraid. It is in his character to be afraid. We can expect that of a blind person who can be afraid of the unusual happening around him like the multitude that gathered around when they heard of Jesus’s coming. He therefore also needed to be helped and assured by others who were compassionate. “You have nothing whatever to fear from him”.
If he could help it he would prefer a healing from a distance like the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant boy but said, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my servant shall be healed.”
This man Bar Timeus or “Son of Timeus” was probably well known already in the Christian community for which St. Mark was writing. This particular episode must have been was talked about in the early Church and this was the source of St. Mark for writing this particular episode in his Gospel. He might have been known in that early Church community with the name “Timeus”, a man who tended to be afraid until he met Jesus. The word “Timeus” sounds similar to the Latin word “timeo and timere” which mean s “afraid”. This Latin word is the origin of the English word “timorous” which means having the tendency to be afraid.
It seems to have been the practice among the early Christians to adopt names that give more meaning to their Christian calling. They might have followed after the example of St. Peter. His name was originally Bar Jona or Son of Jona. But when Jesus appointed him to head the Church he tells him, “From now on your name is Peter which means rock and upon this rock I will build my Church.”
In the case of the episode about the healing of the blind man it is logical that that he was given by the Christian community the name Timeus because he was a man who tended to become afraid. But after the episode of his healing by Jesus he overcame all fear and became a model of trust and faith in Jesus and followed him all the way to Jerusalem where Jesus would be crucified and rise from the dead on the third day.
To get back to his initial meeting with Jesus – when he was given assurance that need not fear because Jesus was calling him he was emboldened and he threw aside his cloak and came to Jesus. He came to be no longer afraid after hearing these words of assurance from Jesus.
The cloak is also a significant detail in this episode of healing. The cloak is also symbol of his insecurity. He cloaked his fear and insecurity. It was kind of a security blanket for him.
I had a friend in the seminary who always wore a jacket whenever he went out of the house in an air conditioned car. He probably felt insecure about his health perhaps because he might have gotten sick of pneumonia or malaria when he was a child and now the jacket makes him feel secure from the cold.
At this meeting with Jesus, Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak. His encounter with Jesus made him feel secure. He has nothing to fear now.
Jesus asks him, “What do you want be to do for you?” Obviously Jesus knew what he really needed. He was a blind man who wanted to be cured of his blindness. But Jesus still asks him “What do you want me to do for you?”
This tells us that if we want some grace in life we should desire it. We must really want it. With that desire the realization of our desire begins or is done. In this case when Jesus they says to Bartimeus “Be on your way. Your faith has healed you.” Immediately Bartimeus received his sight.
This Gospel narrative also tells us about the interplay of fear and faith. These are the two most basic attitudes in our life. Our personal problem or problems in life and the problem or problems in our society and the world, whether it is problem in personal relationships, economic problem or political problem, or problem of religion or racial prejudice,, etc… can be traced back to fear. The solutions to such problems will ultimately be found in trust and faith. Trust in God and trust in one another. This was what saved Bartimaeus and made him see and gave him the courage to follow Jesus all the way to the Lord’s death and Resurrection and gained for him greatest healing of all.