30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Gospel Lectio Divina - Oct. 24, 2021
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
"Jesus, son of David, have pity on me."
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
But he kept calling out all the more,
"Son of David, have pity on me."
Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
"Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you."
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?"
The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see."
Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you."
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way.
“have pity on me”
Bartimaeus’ plea to Jesus is humble. He does not feel entitled to anything, but believes that Jesus can help him. Because of his humility, Jesus responds wholeheartedly. What is the state of my heart when I reach out to God with a request? Do I feel like God is depriving me and that it’s only fair for him to give me what I ask? Do I bargain with him and say, “If you do this one thing I will follow you more closely”? The blind man’s request is simple. He simply asks to be healed. Jesus, seeing Bartimaeus’ faith, knows that he not only wants to be healed but genuinely believes in the Lord as well.
But he kept calling out all the more
Perhaps persistence is all we need when our faith is tried and criticized. The apostles were told to wait nine days for the Holy Spirit to descend upon them after Jesus ascended into heaven. They did not give up hope. Persistence in prayer is key to hearing God’s voice. Perhaps it’s because God wants us to prove that we’re not just reaching out on a whim, and we’re serious about our prayer--coming back day in and day out asking him to grant it despite what life throws at us. Bartimaeus shows a similar kind of faith. For it, Jesus grants his request.
The word “vocation” comes from the Latin verb “vocare”, meaning “to call”. In saying “call him”, Jesus is thus not just telling his followers to call Bartimaeus to him from outside the crowd. Seeing the blind man’s faith, Jesus is already calling Bartimaeus to join him and follow him. Jesus’ followers even tell him, “Jesus is calling you.” Given the context, we can easily see the literal meaning of these words. But they have an allegorical meaning also. Not only is Jesus calling the blind man to him to be healed. More importantly, Jesus is calling him to become a disciple. This is a story of healing, but it is also a story about discipleship.
"What do you want me to do for you?"
Just like in last Sunday’s Gospel--when James and John had a request for Jesus--in this Sunday’s passage Jesus is asked for something and he immediately responds in compliance. It may come across as odd that the Lord of all is so ready to serve. But Christ made it clear last week that in order to lead in the kingdom of heaven, a willingness to serve is absolutely essential. If the Lord of all is willing to grant the requests of those under him, how much more so should our leaders in our governments, businesses, and families? If only more leaders would live by Christ’s example.
"Master, I want to see."
This is my prayer as well: to see God. So often my vision gets clouded by my ephemeral desires and expectations. I want to see what really matters. But to do so I must be humble like Bartimaeus, who cried out, “Have pity on me!” and called Jesus “Master” before the Lord even cured him.
“go your way”
Jesus gave Bartimaeus the freedom to “go [his] way” after healing him. In his freedom, the blind man chose to follow the only true Way. So often I see God as one who curtails my freedom and keeps me from doing what I really want. That’s not who he really is though, and if I feel that way then something is wrong with my relationship with God. He wants what is best for me and shows me the way. However, he also always grants freedom. In my foolishness, I just often want to do something other than what he is proposing and I always end up paying the price. Let’s learn to trust God more, and have faith that he knows what is best for us. He wants to heal us of whatever ails us just as much as we want to be healed.
“your faith has saved you.”
Is it true that all we have to do is believe and we will be saved? Christ says if we have faith as small as a mustard seed we could move mountains. I must have no faith at all then because I’d be lucky if I could move a pile of laundry with it. If only we had faith, Jesus keeps saying. Then he demonstrates time and time again what faith can do. How wonderful it would be to have the kind of faith he talks about. Why not just try it? Why not just believe with all our hearts that Jesus can do all he says he can do if we give him our hearts, and see what happens?
Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
Grateful for his healing, Bartimaeus became a follower of Jesus upon being healed. We can see here that Jesus’ initial calling of Bartimaeus was about more than healing. The blind man’s faith was strong enough to believe Jesus could heal him, and this faith is what Jesus is really looking for. So we can see this story is not about physical healing as much as it is about faith and what it can do. Even faith is a gift, though. When Jesus calls Bartimaeus, he is calling the blind man to put that faith into action by following him. Do I respond the same way when God grants my requests? Do I follow him more closely? Or do I just say, “Thanks, I’ll reach out next time I need something.” Perhaps more importantly, what do I do when he doesn’t grant my requests?
You are so much more than an answerer of prayers. Thank you for teaching us how to love and build strong relationships. In knowing you, we learn how to know and love others better. Help me to believe in you like Bartimaeus did. I believe you can heal my blindness, my failure to see you and your works. My greatest hope is for you to show yourself to me in a deeper way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
How does God want to reveal himself to me at this time in my life? Even in my doubt, I can still listen to him. Even if I don’t have faith like Bartimaeus had, I can still ask for more. When we listen to God in the quiet, we can often hear how he is calling us to follow him more closely.
Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.