Today’s Gospel reading at Mass hit me rather hard. It made me think about my own spiritual blindness and reluctance to call out to Christ. It was Mark 10: 46-52—the healing of a blind Bartimaeus. This blind man struck me as a powerful figure who had extreme faith in Christ though he had been through such great suffering in his life. He was both blind and a beggar who lived on the street. Yet, he had the courage to cry out to Jesus. How many of us, when we are hit with hardship after hardship after hardship tend to turn from Christ and become angry with Him instead of turning to Him and asking Him to heal us? Why do we do this?
Well, I think the Gospel may have some insight (as usual). In verses 47 and 48: “On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he [Bartimaeus] began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” The beggar sat by the roadside, completely humiliated, crying out to Jesus for healing, and the people tried to silence him. They were embarrassed of him; they didn’t think that Jesus would care about him; they were annoyed and worried that the beggar would bother Jesus. They saw him as a lowly, pitiful man who could do nothing for himself. I think a lot of us feel embarrassed to rely on the Lord. We don’t want to think of ourselves as beggars who need Christ’s healing power and grace. We want to be able to say that we did it on our own. We don’t want people to make fun of us, to think low of us, to have pity on us, or to see us as useless and unable to take care of ourselves. We certainly don’t want to be seen as a poor blind beggar.
But that’s not all. Another clue to our reluctance to turn to Christ lies in what the beggar did after he was healed. It’s kind of hidden at the end of the reading, almost like an afterthought. But I think it’s pretty important. Verse 52: “Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.” Followed him on the way, eh? So the blind man was healed and he immediately followed Christ. Is that what we are willing to do? Are we willing to follow Christ in order to enjoy happiness in our lives? Or would we rather do things our own way, even if it means endless suffering?
I got to thinking about this blind man. He could have chosen to sit there quietly, letting Jesus pass on by, and keep to his life of blindness—but at least he wouldn’t have to follow Christ. He could have stuck to the life he already knew, doing his own thing and taking care of himself the way that he knew how. But he would have been blind.
Aren’t there many of us who make that choice—who choose to let Christ pass by without calling out to Him? We would rather carry on with the life that we know, handling it all on our own, content with our blindness, because it would be too hard to follow Christ and His will for us. We think we are strong enough; we don’t need anyone else and certainly not Christ as our leader. We would rather stick with our own will, our own plans, though they continue to fail and make us miserable, because we are afraid of what God might ask us to do if we trust Him. Our way is more predictable and therefore more comfortable.
I’m sure it was hard for that blind man to make the choice to cry out and follow Christ. He faced those men who looked down upon him, saw him as needy and useless, and rebuked him, yet he called out persistently in the face of humiliation. And look what it got him: healing. (Who should be rebuked now, eh?) Then, he immediately got up to follow Christ. Think about what the Apostles did when they left everything—their homes, their families, their way of life—to follow Him; it was no easy task. But then, you might think, “The man was blind and a beggar; of course he would rather follow Christ who gave him his sight than to remain there on the street!” Well, that’s exactly my point. Christ is always the better Way.
There are many of us who have harder lives than others, and in some ways I consider that a blessing; it forces us to need Christ, to cry out to Him. Many people who have an easy wonderful life never see the need for God in their lives, and they don’t even realize how empty their lives are. Rich people who have no worries about putting food on the table or paying for health care fill up their lives with stuff and yet are left feeling so unfulfilled. Those who are used to having things handed to them on silver platters never feel the value of hard work, and are left wanting something more. They are the truly blind ones. So, rejoice in your suffering, and know that God is calling you to greater things. You don’t have to do it on your own. In fact, you’re a stronger person if you don’t do it on your own. Cry out to Christ. Beg for Him, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”