30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
October 28, 2012
Bartimaeus was a blind man and a beggar. Physically, as a blind man, Bartimaeus would not have been able to work in the common jobs of the time. Since he could not work, he was forced to become a beggar. For this alone, he would have been considered an outcast by many.
To add to that, in the Jewish understanding of the time, his blindness would have been seen as punishment for sin. They may not have any idea what his sin was but they would assume he must have sinned in some way. Labeled as a sinner, he would again be considered an outcast and no one would have associated with him.
When Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is near, he calls out to him. But he does not just call him by the name Jesus. No, he adds the title “Son of David” indicating some recognition of Jesus’ greatness. He asks Jesus for pity.
We do not hear the initial reaction of Jesus but we are told that “many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” They were treating him as an outcast.
He is not deterred. He keeps calling out to Jesus. Now, Jesus stops and tells his disciples to call Bartimaeus over. Now, the disciples eagerly do so at Jesus’ command.
Jesus asks him “What do you want me to do for you?” This is a complete reversal of last week when James and John asks Jesus to do what they ask. This is Jesus’ initiative.
Bartimaeus says he wants to see. Jesus does nothing except say “your faith has saved you” and Bartimaeus is healed. Bartimaeus was considered an outcast but he called out to Jesus in need and Jesus heard and answered his call.
What would you have done? Would you have helped Bartimaeus or shunned him? Would you have felt sorry for him in his blindness? Would it have been out of compassion or ‘feeling bad’ for him?
I hope we might all want to help him but would we?
I know when people come to me walking down the street, I can be torn. (For the record, I’m talking right now as an ordinary person without my collar on). How do you react if you see someone who is unclean or smells. I have to admit I am uncomfortable. I want better for them but I struggle with knowing what really helps them.
Sometimes, assuming we give them a chance to speak before shunning them, they give a story that doesn’t quite add up. Sometimes, the story hits home and we do something to help them.
What do you do? Do you ignore them? Who might you ignore and who might you help? The blind? The lame? A mother with a young child?
There is no one who Jesus won’t help.
As individuals, we can’t help everyone. But we have to begin somewhere.
As a church, some say we should focus on the spiritual. They say stick to what Jesus says. Well, Jesus said in Matthew 25:31-46 to feed the hungry and care for the sick. How much more clear do you need it to be?
We can do some of this individually and some of it through community organizations that pool the giving of our time, talent, and treasure.
Some such organizations are totally secular in nature. I like faith to be a motivating factor in the mission of such organizations. We are called to help anyone regardless of their faith and we don’t need to force our faith on them but we can let our faith influence our own actions.
All this is why I am a supporter of Catholic Charities. When I was in Elmira, I served on the local board there. For four years now, I have been on the board of Providence Housing which is part of Catholic Charities, and just recently I became a member of the Catholic Charities board here.
How might you help as an individual or by helping a group like Catholic Charities?