If you wish to read the texts click here: Jer 31:7-9; Heb 5:1-6; Mk 10:46-52
The promise of a return to the Promised Land is one of many instances in The Old Testament in which God’s deliverance is seen as belonging to the real and material world of human existence. It is a promise in time and space and is not limited only to a spiritual realm. While this is seen clearly in the First reading of today, it is even clearer in the Gospel text in which Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus. If, in the words of Jeremiah, God is shepherd and keeper of his people, for Mark, God is one who restores wholeness.
The tone of the reading from Jeremiah is one of sheer joy, hope, and confidence. It is not the strong whom God will gather but the helpless and the weak. The ones gathered are those who are unable to take care of themselves and those who depend on the Lord for their salvation. These will be led by a smooth path and they will not stumble because it is the Lord himself who will go ahead of them.
The privilege of being led by God is a blessing, not only for the covenant people, but through them, for all the earth. Something in the very heart of God is moved by suffering, and hurt, and pain, by the plight of the mocked and the ridiculed, the lonely and the desolate, the besieged and the afflicted. The Lord will not let the uncared for remain that way. He will not let the taunts of the mockers go untended. This is what we know to be at the very center of the revelation of the love of God—in both the story of Israel and particularly, in the story of Jesus Christ. The grace of God always triumphs over the judgment of God.
This fact is made absolutely clear in the Gospel text of today when we read how blind Bartimaeus is healed. This is the last miracle before Jesus can enter Jerusalem to suffer and to die and thus, is significant. Though the crowd tries to silence him, Bartimaeus will not be silenced. His faith in the power of Jesus to make him whole prompts him to keep pleading. Bartimaeus’ faith is rewarded by Jesus and Bartimaues is able to see again. It is significant to note that, though physically blind, Bartimaeus is able to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. This is evident in the title that he uses to address Jesus – “Son of David”. However, Jesus is not merely Son of David; he is also Son of God. The plea of Bartimaeus – “have mercy on me” is an indication of the fact that the mercy of God is given generously and freely to those who ask. God wants to give. What is lacking is not his desire to give, but our perseverance in asking.
This God, who wants to give, was made manifest in Jesus. Jesus, a God who knows completely the sufferings and trials of the human race. As a matter of fact, Jesus becoming human enables him to understand every aspect of human life, its ups and downs, its highs and lows, its good times and bad times. This is why he is able to deal gently with those who go astray and with those who are in need of healing and wholeness.
The God revealed in Jesus goes even further than God went with the people of old. The God revealed in Jesus promises not merely a return to a promised land but a return to new life itself. This he does through the very tangible action of giving himself over to death on a Cross. He died so that we might live and live fully.
To be sure, blindness, deafness, lameness, paralysis, and other illnesses, continue to plague humanity. We are still a long way off from the wholeness that Jesus proclaimed and brought to those around him. Yet the fact remains that this is what we, as disciples of Jesus, are called to continue to proclaim and to bring. Do we lack the power to bring healing and wholeness to others today? No. Does God not want to make people whole? No. We are unable to bring healing and wholeness to others because we lack the will to ask and the determination to believe. We give up even before we can try. We do not persevere. The negatives around us have taken such a hold of us that they dominate our lives and do not allow us to be optimistic and positive. The problems that we encounter sometimes overwhelm us and do not allow us the courage to hope.
The remnants who are brought back to the Promised Land and Blind Bartimaeus offer us a lesson in hope, faith, and perseverance. Their hope, faith, and perseverance helped them to receive the blessing that God wanted to grant them. It helped them to return to the Promised Land and to be restored to wholeness. Our hope, faith, and perseverance can help us to achieve healing and wholeness as well.