A homily for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
The Gospel presents Bartimaeus to us to show us that this is what it looks like to follow Jesus. This is what we’re called to. So what can we learn from him? I would propose three things: (1) see your blindness; (2) beg boldly; and (3) make Jesus’ Way your way.
What’s the first thing we hear about Bartimaeus? That he’s a blind man. He needs help. But at least he can see that he needs help.
He can’t ignore the fact that he’s disabled, that he’s in need of assistance. We’re often blind to this about ourselves, thinking that we can do it all on our own. We think that we don’t need Jesus, or at least, we think this until things go so badly that we have nowhere to turn but Him.
It’s why He says in John 9, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind. […] If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”
And it’s why God promises in the First Reading to come and gather up and heal all of the broken people of the world, the blind, the lame, the mothers and children who need consolation.
For Bartimaeus to be healed, he’s go to first see that he’s blind. He’s got to acknowledge what needs healing. What do you need healed? Where are you wounded? Maybe it’s by your own sins, your own addictions, maybe it’s by the way that others have hurt you, maybe it’s by the fact that you can’t do it all on your own. See your blindness.
But that’s not enough. Next, you’ve got beg boldly. Bartimaeus has the humility to sit by the road and beg for help. He knows that in doing this, other people are going to be judging him. Maybe they’ll be rude to him to his face, maybe they’ll just think ill of him behind his back. He does it anyways. He suffers all of this because he knows he needs help.
You know who begs boldly? Children. Jesus tells us that “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” What does He mean by this? He doesn’t mean “don’t think” or “don’t ask questions.” Nobody asks as many questions as a child, and they’re constantly trying to understand our world better.
But think about the absolute trust with which they act. When they’re in pain, or sad, or need something, what do they do? They cry out for help. When they’re too young to speak, they just scream and cry, because on some level they know that if they do this long enough, someone bigger than them, someone who loves them, will come and help them.
We need to do this with God. Cry out to Him in prayer, scream if you have to, and if you don’t get an answer, keep doing it.
Now part of begging boldly means being willing to receive what you’re asking for. Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” And what does Bartimaeus reply, “Master, I want to see.”
You might be thinking: obviously. Obviously he wants to see. But what does that entail? What does that mean for Bartimaeus? It means that his whole life is about to change. After Christ heals a blind man in John’s Gospel, it says that “the neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, ‘Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?’” So Bartimaeus’ life of sitting there as the blind beggar outside the city is over. People might have compassion on the blind guy sitting on the roadside, but as an able-bodied man? Good luck.
Bartimaeus risks all of this: he knows that his old life will be over, and he says, ‘Yes, this is what I want! I want to leave behind my life of blindness and go in a new way.’
Bartimaeus isn’t afraid to follow Jesus along the way.
In Isaiah 55, God says to man, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” It’s a good reminder that God has a plan, even though we can’t always understand it.
But sometimes, the plan is just too inscrutable for us. And so we can doubt that God has a plan; perhaps we can even doubt if there is a God. The philosopher and atheist Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “‘This is now my way, where is yours?’ Thus did I answer those who asked me ‘the way.’ For the way, it doth not exist!” And that’s exactly what our culture teaches: you’ve got your way, I’ve got my way, and there’s not such thing as “The Way,” there’s no right way.
What can we say to this? Jesus Christ answers, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Once He says this, He’s taken an important possibility off the board. No longer can we just treat Him like some helpful guru or life coach. He’s either much less, or much more, than that.
So what do we make of this? Is He some sort of egomaniac? He is lying about being God? Is He utterly insane? Or, and this is perhaps the most startling possibility, is He telling the truth? Look at the evidence. Look at His beautiful teachings: they seem sane and compassionate. Look at His miracles: they point us towards the incredible truth that He really is Who He really He is. And most of all, look at the historical fact of the Resurrection, God’s ultimate stamp of approval of Jesus Christ.
If we want to get to Heaven, Jesus is the Way. Bartimaeus, who doesn’t know about the Resurrection, who hasn’t even seen a miracle yet, he gets this. He cries out in faith to Christ. And what happens next? After Bartimaeus tells Jesus that he wants to see, Jesus says to him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” And then it says that Bartimaeus “received his sight and followed him on the way.” Bartimaeus’ way is Jesus’ way now.
This is where it all leads. Once we see that we’re blind, we need to have the courage and the humility to boldly beg for healing. We need to be willing to leave that old way behind, the way that left us blind, and walk in a new way in the light of Jesus Christ.