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As Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly.
We do not like to stand out in the crowd! Most of us work hard at being anonymous as we live out our daily lives. No matter how loudly we may shout at the television or rail against the actions and opinions of others in private, we can rarely muster the courage to do the same in public. In earlier times, we may have been moved to write a ‘stern’ letter to a newspaper, and today we may feel moved to write an even ‘sterner’ email … it is so much easier to be rude from our computer keyboards. But in public, or in face-to-face encounters, we shrink back behind our meek, non-controversial facades, hoping that we might not stand out as being a trouble-maker, or worse.
Unfortunately, this anonymous front soon becomes the approach we adopt in all matters, including those of faith. Whether we justify this by claiming it to be the ‘work of others’, or whether we are simply ‘afraid of baring our souls’, we so often struggle with bringing the good news of Jesus Christ into the forefront of our lives. Instead, we adopt the maxim: never talk about politics … or religion!
In today’s reading we hear of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar. As is often the case with those who are visually impaired, there was absolutely nothing wrong with his hearing. Not only did he hear the commotion generated by the presence of Jesus, he had also heard of what Jesus’ presence might mean to him, and to others like him. Then, sensing the physical closeness of Jesus, he cried out: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
Like Bartimaeus we are blind, blind to much that is good and from God in this world. We have heard rumour of such goodness, just as we have heard rumour of God, but how often do we shout what we have heard from the rooftops? Not only are we reticent about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, we often speak sternly to those who are braver than us, we shout them down and ridicule them for their commitment to living a life of faith.
Jesus does, of course, restore the sight of Bartimaeus. Jesus also declares that this miracle of healing has been brought about by the faith of Bartimaeus himself. It is Bartimaeus’ persistence in the face of those stern orders to remain silent that brings about the miraculous and life-changing cure.
As we stumble around in this world we are all in need of Jesus’ divine healing touch in our lives. Despite our awareness of that need, and despite having heard that the one who might heal us is Jesus Christ, we remain silent. We allow ourselves to be gagged when we should really be shouting louder and louder. Our prayer today should be a simple one: Lord, give us the courage to share the good news of your presence with others, and never let us be among those who sternly order others to be quiet when they wish to share their faith.