In this week’s reading the story of Bartimaeus reminds us that human beings are in need of healing and forgiveness, and these are the things that Jesus provides. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
46 As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ 48 And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ 49 Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said, ‘get up; he is calling you.’ 50 So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him, ‘Master, let me see again.’ 52 Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.
Other readings: Jeremiah 31:7-9 Psalm 125 (126) Hebrews 5:1-6
With this gospel passage we reach the end of chapter 10 of the Gospel of Mark, and, more significantly, we are reaching the end of the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. At the beginning of the next chapter Mark will recount the triumphal entry of Jesus into the holy city. During the journey Jesus has spoken on three clear occasions of his coming suffering and death, and he has attempted to teach the disciples about the mystery of martyrdom, the martyrdom which he and they must face.
What place does our present passage have in the story? Bartimaeus reminds us of the basics as he sits ‘by the road’. Human beings are in need of healing and forgiveness, and these are the things that Jesus provides. He calls out to Jesus with the title ‘Son of David’. He has an inkling that he is the Messiah, but he will have had little idea that the Messiah is called to suffer and die in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, his call of faith is heard and Jesus in turn calls Bartimaeus to him. He is told to ‘get up’, an expression which would have reminded the early Christians of the resurrection. His rising up in faith and his subsequent healing point to the full gift of new life through faith in Jesus.
The gift of sight to Bartimaeus symbolises the gift of faith. Faith allows us to see with open eyes and a true heart. Unlike an earlier healing of a blind man in Mark, Jesus heals by word alone. The faith of Bartimaeus triggers the command of healing from Jesus. This time there is no delay in the healing. Bartimaeus receives his sight without delay. He becomes a disciple and follows Jesus along the road, exultant, on the last stages of the journey towards Jerusalem.
Do I seek true vision?
How determined am I to be healed by Jesus and to become his disciple?
Let us thank God for the light of faith.
Let us pray for all teachers of the faith that they may bring the light of truth to those to whom they minister.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy