Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Believe and you will see

GUIDING LIGHT - Rev. Fr. Benjamin Sim, Sj - The Freeman

What can we learn from the story of Bartimaeus? First, we recognize that faith begins in uncertainty and the acknowledgment of our situation of helplessness. Faith is, to some extent, always “blind.”

A well-known biblical definition refers to faith as “conviction about things we do not see.” What makes the act of faith so difficult is that it runs counter to the proverbial wisdom and our stubborn conviction that “seeing is believing.”

One must realize that to say “I’ll believe only if I see it” is an expression of self-reliance, not dependency.   The invitation of Jesus is the other way around.  “Believe, and you’ll see things your bodily eyes cannot see.”

The blind man, Bartimaeus, in today’s Gospel illustrates well the process of “coming to faith.”

His physical blindness is a metaphor for the human condition:  We search in the darkness for something that will lead us to the light.

The first step in that process is a willingness to trust, to depend on others – someone or something else that will lead us out of the darkness.

In one of his early lyrics, songwriter Bob Dylan made this observation: “When you got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.” Perhaps this notion applies to the long list of society’s “losers,” like the Apostles, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Mother Teresa, who were willing to take a chance and trust Jesus, while those who had status and power were quick to reject him.

Secondly, the story makes us aware that faith requires that we forgo security and take risks.  Faith is often described as a “leap,” sometimes into darkness.  In this case, the old saying “look before you leap” cannot apply.  Bartimaeus has to take a chance and hope that Jesus really is the one, the healing Messiah. In reality, faith is a leap into the lights. Faith makes us see the light of Truth.

There’s an old story that a tourist came too close to the edge of the Grand Canyon, lost his footing and plunged over the edge, clawing and scratching to save himself. Somehow he was able to grab hold of a small shrub. Filled with terror, he called out,

“Is there anyone up there?  Can anyone help me?”

He heard a reassuring voice say, “I’m here, the Lord your God.” The man said, “I’m so glad you came along. I can’t hold on much longer.”

The Lord said, “Before I help you, I want to know if you believe in me.”

The man answered, “Lord, I certainly believe in you.  I go to Mass every Sunday, sometimes even on Wednesdays and Fridays.  I read my Bible, pray every day, and even put a few dollars in the collection plate.” The Lord replied, “But do you really believe in me?”

The man was getting more desperate.  “Lord, You can’t believe how much I believe in You…

I believe!” The Lord said, “Good.  Now let go of the branch.”

The man stammered, “But Lord.” And the voice of the Lord came back, “If you believe in me, let go of the branch.” The man was silent for a minute and then yelled, “Is there anyone else up there?”

Most of us have more to lose than poor, blind Bartimaeus. Before we “leap” we have to let go of any number of convictions that we can make ourselves “secure.”

In a way, it is ironic that Bartimaeus, the man blind from birth could see Jesus and recognize him as the Messiah, while the Pharisees and other religious leaders were too blind to recognize Jesus because of their preconceived ideas and prejudices.

This is true with us also. We can at times be so blinded by our prejudices and the materialistic values of the world, be it in business, politics, in the amoral and immoral values of society, even in religion, be it in sinfulness or selfishness, that we fail to see and recognize the genuine teachings of the Gospel. We can also be spiritually blind.

The simple request of Bartimaeus stands in contrast to that of James and John in last Sundays’ Gospel. They were asking for status and security, “Grant us to sit … one on your left, the other on your right  in your kingdom,” while the blind man’s request was more attuned  to the mission of the Messiah: to bring light to the blind and healing to those in distress.

A final lesson from today’s Gospel passage – those who have received the gift of faith must take the message out to others. The last words in today’s Gospel indicate that Bartimaeus followed Jesus literally “up the road.”

Another translation of that last phrase would be “on the way,” –  a symbolic phrase in Mark’s text for the “way” of discipleship. The early Christians were called the “Followers of the Way.”

The blind man’s act of faith not only brings light to his eyes, it also enlightens all those who witness the event. Bartimaeus is granted his wish, and the story could have ended right there.

Yet, the last line strongly suggests that his healing had repercussions far beyond the outskirts of Jericho. When faith comes to full flower, it drives the believer to go fort hand share the Good News.

We gather at the Lord’s Table and echo the plea of Bartimaeus: “Lord, I want to see.”   Our faith, nourished at this Eucharistic Table, cannot remain private and kept to ourselves. We are empowered to take it beyond these walls as we follow Jesus “on the way.”

May God bless you for this mission!

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