Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary time
There is an old saying, be careful of what you ask for, you might get it. It seems odd, but sometimes the very thing we want the most is the thing that disappoints us the most. I remember way back in a freshman psychology class reading about a study done of people who were born blind gaining their sight. This group of individuals had always been blind, they had never had sight. Through a surgical procedure they were able to see for the first time. Surprisingly, the study found that almost all of them reported being disappointed. Gaining their sight was not the euphoric experience they thought it would be, they felt let down. Their expectation of what the world would look like did not match the reality of the world. Never having seen before, I’m not sure what they expected, but as we know the world can be a dull, dingy place, not always bright, cheerful and wonderful. They got the one thing they wanted, but it wasn’t what they though it would be.
Outside of Jericho waited a man named Bartimaeus, a man blind from birth. He waited for the coming of a man named Jesus. He had heard of this man, of his great healing powers, and he waited. All Bartimaeus wanted was to see. Nothing else mattered, nothing else, he thought, could matter as much in his life as gaining the ability to see. So he waited, waited for Jesus, waited for the hope of sight. When Jesus approached Bartimaeus boldly called out to him, “Son of David, have pity on me.” People tried to quiet him, to make him, go away, to keep him from bothering Jesus, but he would not stop. Seeing was the only thing that mattered, and Jesus was the one who could make that possible. So Bartimaeus called out, until Jesus said “bring him to me.” When Jesus asked Bartimaeus what he wanted Bartimaeus did not hesitate, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus then said “go your way, your faith has saved you.” And for the first time in his life, Bartimaeus could see. We don’t know what his reaction to sight was, but it must have been positive because the scripture says he followed Jesus on the way. Bartimaeus may not have been disappointed. Yes, he was able to see for the first time, but more than that, he heard the words Jesus said to him, “Go your way, your faith has saved you.” Your faith has saved you, not your sight, sight is only secondary, secondary to being saved, saved from blindness, physical blindness, and the blindness that keeps us from seeing Jesus, and ourselves as Jesus sees us. We who seek to follow Jesus are a lot like Bartimaeus, we are blind and calling out to the Son of God to allow us to see. Jesus answers us as he answered Bartimaeus, and we can see. But like those blind from birth who suddenly gain sight, we’re disappointed. Disappointed because what we can see isn’t necessarily what we want to see. We are given the power to see, the power to see ourselves as we truly are, and all too often it’s not a pretty picture. We expected brightness, light, glory. What we get is ourselves, our faults, our failings. What a disappointment. We want light, we want glory, we want to be free from our faults, we want it to get easier. What we forget is all of what Jesus said to Bartimaeus, and to us. Go your way, your faith has saved you. Faith, that is what matters. It is our faith that makes it possible for us to ask for sight. It is our faith that allows us to see who we are. Faith opens our eyes to ourselves, but it also opens our eyes to God, to the God who grants us that faith, and that sight, and the grace to use that sight to change. The greatest gift we can get is the sight that faith gives us, the sight to see our faults, and the faith to repent of them. Seeing doesn’t make it easy, it just makes it possible. We must be like Bartimaeus, we must be persistent. Keep calling out, keep asking for the power to see, and the grace to act on that vision. Keep calling, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
Deacon John Simons
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 29, 2006