HOMILY WEEK 08 04 – Year I
The Healing of Bartimaeus – Faith, Healing and Following Jesus:
Memorial of Saint Justin
(Sirach 42:15-25; Ps 33; Mk 10:46-52)
“Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’”
The gospel today invites to have the profound faith of Bartimaeus in Jesus as the Messiah, come to him for healing, take up our cross and follow him.
There is a distressing note in the gospel, in that the crowd around Jesus that day actually tried to prevent poor, blind Bartimaeus from catching the attention of Jesus. Before being too harsh on them, however, it would be good for us to check out own behaviours and attitudes. Are there times when we perhaps unintentionally did very much the same thing – discouraged others in their journey to greater faith by our negative attitudes or discouraging comments? Thankfully, when Jesus stopped, stood still, and told them to call the blind man, they obeyed, shifted their stance and encouraged him to get up and go to Jesus.
The cloak for Bartimaeus was his only status, his permission to beg. He throws it away before Jesus heals him, in faith. What a contrast to those who were discouraging him, and what an example for us. We must also let go of old securities and embrace the new, the unimaginable.
This story is similar to the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida (8:22-26). Mark uses these two stories of new sight to frame that whole section (8:22-10:52) dealing with Jesus’ predictions of the passion and the disciples’ misunderstanding. Eyes must be opened – both the disciples’ and ours – to see the true meaning of Jesus’ messianic suffering and so correctly follow him on this new way to life with God.
This is a transition passage, preparing for the revealing of the humble Messiah and the true nature of his messiahship in Jerusalem. So now there is no need for secrecy – when Jesus is acclaimed as Son of David he calls the man to him, heals him and allows him to follow. In addressing Jesus that way, Bartimaeus was acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah, as the descendant of David who would come to establish an eternal kingdom. Bartimaeus was professing that Jesus was more than a gifted rabbi or a prophet. He was the fulfilment of God’s promises. When Bartimaeus cried out, it was a cry of profound faith in Jesus, anointed by God, the one who could heal and restore him: Jesus, Son of David.
This miracle of sight is meant to heal his disciples, and us, of our blindness. It takes faith to recognize the mercy and compassion of the Son of David and follow him in the way of humble discipleship. The emphasis on suffering ever since Caeserea Phillipi rules out any triumphalism.
Since Mark wants to show that Jesus is the only model of a true disciple, he presents a negative image of the disciples. Mark stresses that a Christian disciple is one who can take up his or her cross and follow Jesus on this way of suffering. Any other claim to discipleship – from family ties, being one of the twelve apostles, having a personal knowledge of Jesus or simply belonging to a religious community or tradition, will always end in failure. Jesus offers no quick fix or easy comfort. The only solution is to take up one’s cross as Jesus did, for only by living through the suffering and death does resurrection follow. Suffering is not the end but the door to a new existence with God, who never abandons us.
This passage speaks to our human tendency to want sensational things from God, to get something out of God, rather than simply do God’s will, humbly worship and love one another.
The saint we honor today, Justin Martyr, lived the Paschal Mystery to the full. Justin was of pagan Greek origin born in Sichem, Samaria about the year 100. For a long time, he searched for truth, passing through various schools of traditional Greek philosophy. After being convinced it was impossible for the human person to satisfy the desire for the divine with human strength alone, he converted to Christianity and founded a school in Rome where he initiated his students into this new religion that he considered the one true philosophy.
Justin was a persuasive Christian apologist, travelling and teaching widely about Christianity. Denounced to the authorities, Justin and his companions were brought to trial. Court records reveal how they declared themselves Christians, refusing to sacrifice to the gods. Central to Justin’s witness was that the Church was a public reality, not a private club. The Church existed to engage and create public culture. The purpose of the Church was to be seen and heard, as it had a message and a mission that was for everyone, not just for a privileged few. Justin and his companions were condemned to death by Marcus Aurelius, the emperor-philosopher to whom Justin had dedicated an “Apologia,” and martyred about the year 165. Of his writings, two of his “Apologies” survive, as well as a “Dialogue” in which he tells of his conversion.
The Eucharist is a profound act of faith, as we encounter Jesus, present here in his Word and in the Bread and Wine. So, let us have faith in Jesus, throw off our old securities, take up our cross and follow Jesus.