Jer 31.7 to 9; Ps 126; Heb 5, 1-6; Mk 10, 46-52
Acts 8.26 to 39; Ps 65; 1 Tim 2, 1-5; 16,14b Mk 16, 14b-20
First Sunday after the dedication of the Cathedral of Milan.
Heart and eyes open to the light.
To reveal that Jesus is the light, the Gospel of this Sunday speaks about the Messiah who heals a blind man. Christ illuminates all that is dark in life, and allows not only the blind man but all of us to live as “children of light” and to see the light of Truth.
What were (and still are today) the conditions for this miracle to happen? Prayer (“Jesus, have mercy on me,” Mark 10: 47) and faith (“Go, your faith has saved you” – Mark 10: 52). Both are expressions of freedom. The freedom of the blind who “feels” the presence of the Savior and realizes that it is worth to adhere to the Truth of the love of Christ, who stops when he hears the cry of the blind Bartimaeus. The freedom of Jesus that “frees” his emotion. The cry for mercy moaned by the blind man stops the passing Jesus that does the implored miracle.
Let’s put before the eyes of the heart the Gospel’s scene. Bartimaeus, a poor and blind man, is curled up on the roadside, shameful to beg for a living. He is sitting, he has stopped like one who surrenders because of the waves of life. In the village where this beggar is asking for charity, one day, suddenly, comes Jesus who is love made flesh. This blind man can hear the noise of the people surrounding the Messiah, feels a healing presence and realizes that he can return to the path of life in the light. Bartimateus then hurries (literally jumps) and prays Jesus crying “Have mercy on me!” (The invocation “Lord have mercy” – “Kyrie eleison” of the Mass finds here its origin). Some scold him and tell him to be quiet, but he cries out louder and prays all the more “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
He does not ask for something, he ask the mercy of God over his life. We also hasten to Christ and, like the blind man, implore “Be merciful to me, Son of David, and open the eyes of my soul, that I may see the Light of the world who are you, my God, (see Jn 8:12) so that I may become the son of the divine light (see Jn 12:36). O clement, sends the Comforter on me, so that he himself teaches me (see Jn 14:26) what concerns you and what is yours, God of the universe. Dwell in me, as you said, so that I become worthy to dwell in you (see Jn 15, 4). “(Ethics by Simeon the New Theologian (949 AD – 1022 AD).
Let’s run to Jesus and we will get the view of the heart and of the mind. Let‘s draw near and, after obtaining sight from Christ, we will also be irradiated by the splendor of his light. The closer we get to the Messiah, exposing us closer to the brightness of his light, the more beautifully and splendidly will radiate his splendor, as revealed by God himself through the prophet” Draw near unto me and I will draw near to you, says the Lord” (Zech 1, 3), and again” I am a God who is close and not a distant God” (Jer 23, 23).
Not all come to Him in the same way, but each one goes to Him according to his or her abilities and capabilities (see Mt 25, 15).
The important thing is to go to Him as we can. To him this is enough to save us. Let’s make ours the prayer of the Psalm “Restore us, let your face shine, and we shall be saved” (Ps 80, 20).
The important thing is to be on the road where Jesus of Nazareth passes. It is the way of love that leads to Jerusalem, where the Paschal passion and resurrection, toward which the Redeemer goes for us, will take place. It is the way of his return to the house of the Father, of his exodus which is also ours: the only way of reconciliation that leads to Heaven, “Earth” of justice and of love, peace and light. God is light and the creator of light. We humans are children of light, made to see the light. We do not see because we are blinded by our sins and by our lack of faith. If we are realistic we must beg and then the Lord Jesus, who begs our faith and our love, heals us and makes us part of the Kingdom of Heaven, which “is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit; whoever serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by others. Let us* then pursue what leads to peace and to building up one another”. (Rom 14: 17-19).
A loving question and a request for compassion.
Bartimaeus, like each one of us, needs to be loved, and is fortunate to receive by Jesus a loving question. Not “what do you want to do?” asks Jesus, but: “What do you want me to do?” It’s a question that comes from the heart of Christ and shows his compassion.
If one day we should hear these same words to us, what would we ask of the Lord? Personally I would put to Christ the same question of Bartimateus “Lord, have mercy on me”, I would add this second prayer “Come, Lord Jesus”, and then I would continue “Come, Lord, in your great goodness, dwell in me for faith and enlighten my blindness. Stay with me and defend my weakness. If you are with me, who can deceive me? If you are with me, I can everything in you, who give me strength. If you are for me, who can be against me? You are born into the world, Jesus, to live in me, with me and for me, to take sides by me, to be my Savior. Thank you, Lord Jesus. “(Saint Bernard of Clairvaux).
Let us identify in Bartimaeus and we can look at the eyes of Christ who looks at us with love and compassion. If we ask the Lord to increase our faith, we can see with the eyes of faith and be filled with the compassion of Christ.
Do not forget, though, that to see God it takes pure heart and pure eyes. You cannot expect to see God if you are impure. How is it possible to be cleansed? Invoking with pain forgiveness, and contemplating with confidence the merciful goodness of the Lord. Our purification, our confidence and our justice are in the faith that leads us to contemplate the greatness of the Lord good, compassionate and welcoming.
In fact, the passage of today’s Gospel, before narrating the miracle, tells us that Jesus welcomes the blind beggar. Like everyone else, the first thing this man needs is to be welcomed. But Christ does even more, he surprises him filling him with the love that heals eyes and heart. He covers this man with light and with the light of faith. Bartimateus recognizes in Jesus Christ, the incarnated God. With this miracle the effective love of God invades his life to sustain him in every moment with His Presence. We, too, with our sight healed by the Redeemer, let focus our eyes on Him and ask Him the strength to lean only on Him, relying nothing on ourselves “For with the Lord is the source of life. In his light we see light “(see Ps 36, 10).
In this light we must not stop begging Christ. Like the blind man, let’s abandon that piece of road where we sit begging for life and let us become beggars of Christ and, therefore, disciples of Life. With the miracle of sight Bartimateus is gripped in a new and surprising relationship that attracts and entices him. The no-longer-blind man follows Christ with his heart and his eyes turned to him, origin (alpha) and fulfillment (omega) of everything: family, work, friendships. Now he knows to Whom to beg; he will follow Him on a path of faith and light that will last for a lifetime, to learn to go “straight ahead”.
3. The road
The road of the blind man is our road, and may Christ pass on it always, to the very end. He came for the blind, for each of us and until there is a blind man he will be on the road. He is the Way and faith enables the healed blind man, like each of us, to walk on it. Faith is a journey of enlightenment: it starts from the humility of recognizing ourselves in need of salvation and arrives at the personal encounter with Christ, who calls us to follow the path of love which coincides with the way of the Cross.
The way par excellence to follow the Redeemer on this path is consecrated virginity. With their consecration the Virgins go with a firm step on the path of love because, with the total, spiritual and physical offering of themselves, they follow Christ on the path of the Cross, which is the road of sacrifice. They consecrate to Christ even their body to be pure souls to His full service. Thanks to their virginal and devoted love they adore the Body of Christ that is on the altar or in the tabernacle “caring for his members that are the poor” (St. Gregory the Great). These brides of Christ do not speak of love: they love, testifying that it is possible to imitate Christ who gave his life with a love deep, suffering, gentle, “tender, namely, attentive to the totality of our being” (Saint John Paul II).
on Mk 10,46-52
Jerome: The name of the city agrees with the approaching Passion of our Lord; for it is said, “And they came to Jericho.” Jericho means moon or anathema; but the failing of the flesh of Christ is the preparation of the heavenly Jerusalem.
It goes on: “And as He went out of Jericho with His disciples, and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the wayside begging.”
Bede: Matthew says, that there were two blind men sitting by the wayside, who cried to the Lord, and received their sight; but Luke relates that one blind man was enlightened by Him, with a like order of circumstances, as He was going into Jericho; where no one, at least no wise man, will suppose that the Evangelists wrote things contrary to one another, but that one wrote more fully, what another has left out.
We must therefore understand that one of them was the more important, which appears from this circumstance, that (p. 215) Mark has related his name and the name of his father.
Augustine, de Con. Evan., ii, 65: It is for this reason that Mark wished to relate his case alone, because his receiving his sight had gained for the miracle a fame, illustrious in proportion to the extent of the knowledge of his affliction. But although Luke relates a miracle done entirely in the same way, nevertheless we must understand that a similar miracle was wrought on another blind man, and a similar method of the same miracle.
It goes on: “And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy upon me.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The blind man calls the Lord, the Son of David, hearing the way in which the passing multitude praised Him, and feeling sure that the expectation of the prophets was fulfilled.
There follows: “And many charged him that he should hold his peace.”
Origen, in Matt. tom. xvi, 13 (ed. note: these preceding words of Origen are necessary to make up the sense: “Next observe, that on the blind man’s crying out, Thou Son of David, have mercy upon me, it was they who went before that charged him that he should hold his peace.” see Lc 18,39): As if he said, Those who were foremost in believing rebuked him when he cried, “Thou Son of David,” that he might hold his peace, and cease to call Him by a contemptible name, when he ought to say, Son of God, have pity upon me. He however did not cease; wherefore it goes on: “But he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy upon me;” and the Lord heard his cry; wherefore there follows: “And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called.”
But observe, that the blind man, of whom Luke speaks, is inferior to this one; for neither did Jesus call him, nor order him to be called, but He commanded him to be brought to Him, as though unable to come by himself; but this blind man by the command of our Lord is called to Him.
Wherefore it goes on: “And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise, He calleth thee;” but he casting away his garment, comes to Him. It goes on: “And he casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.”
Perchance, the garment of the blind man means the veil of blindness and poverty, with which he was surrounded, which he cast away and came to Jesus; and the Lord questions him, as he is approaching.
Wherefore there follows: “And Jesus answered and said unto him, What will thou that I (p. 216) should do unto thee.”
Bede: Could He who was able to restore sight be ignorant of what the blind man wanted? His reason then for asking is that prayer may be made to Him; He puts the question, to stir up the blind man’s heart to pray.
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 56: Or He asks, lest men should think that what He granted the man was not what he wanted. For it was His practice to make the good disposition of those who were to be cured known to all men, and then to apply the remedy, in order to stir up others to emulation, and to shew that he who was to be cured was worthy to obtain the grace.
It goes on: “The blind man said unto Him, Lord, that I may receive my sight.”
Bede: For the blind man looks down upon every gift except light, because, whatever a blind man may possess, without light he cannot see what he possesses.
Pseudo-Jerome: But Jesus, considering his ready will, rewards him with the fulfilment of his desire.
Origen: Again, it is more worthy to say Rabboni, or, as it is in other places, Master, than to say Son of David; wherefore He given him health, not on his saying, Son of David, but when he said Rabboni.
Wherefore there follows: “And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him in the way.”
Theophylact: The mind of the blind man is grateful, for when he was made whole, he did not leave Jesus, but followed Him.
Bede: In a mystical sense, however, Jericho, which means the moon, points out the waning of our fleeting race. The Lord restored sight to the blind man, when drawing near to Jericho, because coming in the flesh and drawing near to His Passion, He brought many to the faith; for it was not in the first years of His Incarnation, but in the few years before He suffered, that He shewed the mystery of the Word to the world.
Pseudo-Jerome: But the blindness in part, brought upon the Jews (Rm 11,25), will in the end be enlightened when He sends unto them the Prophet Elias.
Bede: Now in that on approaching Jericho, He restored sight to one man, and on quitting it to two, He intimated, that before His Passion He preached only to one nation, the Jews, but after His Resurrection and Ascension, through His Apostles He opened the mysteries both of His Divinity and His Humanity to Jews and Gentiles. (p. 217) Mark indeed, in writing that one received his sight, refers to the saving of the Gentiles, that the figure might agree with the salvation of those, whom he instructed in the faith; but Matthew, who wrote his Gospel to the faithful among the Jews, because it was also to reach the knowledge of the Gentiles, fitly says that two received their sight, that He might teach us that the grace of faith belonged to each people.
Therefore, as the Lord was departing with His disciples and a great multitude from Jericho, the blind man was sitting, begging by the way-side; that is, when the Lord ascended into heaven, and many of the faithful followed Him, yea when all the elect from the beginning of the world entered together with Him the gate of heaven (ed. note: This refers to the opinion that by the descent of our Lord into hell, the Patriarchs were freed from the limbus Patrum, where they had been confined, and were carried by Him into a place of happiness; see authorities quoted in Pearson on the Creed, Art. 5), presently the Gentile people began to have hope of its own illumination; for it now sits begging by the wayside, because it has not entered upon and reached the path of truth.
Pseudo-Jerome: The people of the Jews also, because it kept the Scriptures and did not fulfill them, begs and starves by the wayside; but he cries out, “Son of David, have mercy upon me,” because the Jewish people are enlightened by the merits of the Prophets. Many rebuke him that he may hold his peace, that is, sins and devils restrain the cry of the poor; and he cried the more, because when the battle waxes great, hands are to be lifted up with crying to the Rock of help, that is, Jesus of Nazareth.
Bede: Again, the people of the Gentiles, having heard of the fame of the name of Christ, sought to be made a partaker of Him, but many spoke against Him, first the Jews, then also the Gentiles, lest the world which was to be enlightened should call upon Christ. The fury of those who attacked Him, however, could not deprive of salvation those who were fore-ordained to life. And He heard the blind man’s cry as He was passing, but stood when He restored his sight, because by His Humanity He pitied him, who by the power of His Divinity has driven away the darkness from our mind; for in that Jesus was born and suffered for our sakes, He as it were passed by, because this action is temporal; but when God is said to stand, it means, that, (p. 218) Himself without change, He sets in order all changeable things. But the Lord calls the blind man, who cries to Him, when He sends the word of faith to the people of the Gentiles by preachers; and they call on the blind man to be of good cheer and to rise, and bid him come to the Lord, when by preaching to the simple, they bid them have hope of salvation, and rise from the sloth of vice, and gird themselves for a life of virtue.
Again, he throws away his garment and leaps, who, throwing aside the bonds of the world, with unencumbered pace hastens to the Giver of eternal light.
Pseudo-Jerome: Again, the Jewish people comes leaping, stripped of the old man, as a hart (red stag, male deer) leaping on the mountains, that is, laying aside sloth, it meditates on Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles on high, and raises itself to heights of holiness. How consistent also is the order of salvation. First we heard by the Prophets, then we cry aloud by faith, next we are called by Apostles, we rise up by penitence, we are stripped of our old garment by baptism, and of our choice we are questioned. Again, the blind man when asked requires, that he may see the will of the Lord.
Bede: Therefore let us also imitate him, let us not seek for riches, earthly goods, or honours from the Lord, but for that Light, which we alone with the Angels can see, the way to which is faith; wherefore also Christ answers to the blind man, “Thy faith hath saved thee.” But he sees and follows who works what his understanding tells him is good; for he follow Jesus, who understands and executes what is good, who imitates Him, who had no wish to prosper in this world, and bore reproach and derision. And because we have fallen from inward joy, by delight in the things of the body, He shews us what bitter feelings the return thither will cost us.
Theophylact: Further, it says that he followed the Lord in the way, that is, in this life, because, after it, all are excluded who follow Him not here, by working His commandments.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or, this is the way of which He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” This is the narrow way, which leads to the heights of Jerusalem, and Bethany, to the mount of Olives, which is the mount of light and consolation.