October 24, 2021
Revised Common Lectionary
Job 42:1-6, 10-17 or Jeremiah 31:7-9
Psalm 34:1-8 (19-22) or Psalm 126
Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6 (3)
About two years ago I was diagnosed with a visual disability that apparently had been developing throughout my life but of which I had been mostly unaware. I thought that I saw everything that everyone else was seeing, but in fact there was a lot missing from my visual field. I now realize that there are parts of the world that I simply don’t see.
Visual disability is the catalyst for events recorded in today’s Gospel reading—a story filled with irony. The people around Jesus—you know, the ones vying for places of honor, arguing about who was the greatest, and ignoring the predictions of suffering and death—all thought they could see clearly. As the story unfolds, however, it is Bartimaeus—the one with a physical visual disability—who is able to see clearly who Jesus really is. In this last healing story in his Gospel, Mark portrays Bartimaeus as a model disciple through his four responses to the presence and person of Jesus.
First, when he hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, he makes a stunning profession of faith: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mk 10:47-48). He alone in this Gospel refers to Jesus by the messianic title “Son of David.” His cry is an acknowledgement that Jesus is the bearer of God’s compassion to the world.
Second, when Jesus calls, he leaves behind his cloak—which presumably also held the extremely modest take from his begging and was likely all that he had—then “sprang up, and came to Jesus” (10:50). Bartimaeus’ immediate abandonment of his meager possessions stands in direct contrast to the response of the rich man who had gone away grieving after Jesus had invited him to “sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, . . . then come, follow me” (10:21).
Third, when Jesus asks him what he wants, he acknowledges his need and asks for sight. He recognizes his weakness and places himself in the hands of Jesus to bring about transformation. Remarkably, his encounter with Jesus changes not only him but also the disciples and crowd who had only moments before tried to silence him and now encourage him to come to Jesus.
Finally, and perhaps most striking of all, after Jesus had healed and sent him on his way, he instead “followed him on the way” (10:52). As Jesus had taught repeatedly in previous passages of the Gospel, discipleship involves following him and taking up the cross. The very next verse begins the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, and so Mark is suggesting that, having regained his sight, Bartimaeus accompanies Jesus to the city where he will suffer and die.
This person who lacked physical sight, was nonetheless able to recognize Jesus as God’s anointed. His story offers us a remarkable summary of Mark’s view of discipleship, as Bartimaeus leaves everything, opens himself to be healed and transformed by Jesus, and then follows him on the way of the cross.
My own visual disability has made me aware of blind spots not only in my physical viewing of the world, but in other, less obvious areas. Today’s story is an encouragement that in spite of our blind spots, we can call on the transforming power of Christ, see the world as he does, and share in his mission to raise up the lowly and liberate those held captive.
A Hymn for Today: “When God First Brought Us Back”
The Lectionary places today’s Gospel reading of Jesus restoring the sight of Bartimaeus with a word of hope to exiles from the prophet Jeremiah and a psalm of hope for exiles longing for their homeland. Former Hymn Society Executive Director Carl P. Daw, Jr., FHS, has created this paraphrase of Psalm 126.
When God first brought us back from exile,
we were as dazed as those who dream.
Then were our mouths brimming with laughter;
joy from our lips gushed like a stream.
The godless cried in envious wonder,
“Look what the Lord has done for them!”
Indeed our God has greatly blessed us;
rejoice and sing, Jerusalem!
Once more, O Lord, restore your people;
come with your saving help again,
as to the brook-beds in the desert
you bring the sweet, reviving rain.
Let those who sow with tears and sighing
sing as they reap and joy proclaim:
may those who weep when seed is scattered
gather their sheaves and praise your name.
Text: Carl P. Daw, Jr. (b. 1944), © 1996, Hope Publishing Company. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857
Tune: WAYFARING STRANGER
Image Credit: Christus Bartimaeus, Johann Heinrich Stoever Erbach Rheingau
“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.
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