Sunday, Oct. 28, is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126:1-6; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” What about these words would cause the crowd around Jesus to rebuke “the blind in their midst” and try to silence him?
The Gospel reading for this week hinges on a single phrase: “son of David.”
For the Jews, this was a title pregnant with Messianic significance: David’s heir, the one to usher in the everlasting kingdom, the fulfillment of all their longings — this was the son of David promised in the Scriptures.
“Who do men say that I am?” Jesus had asked his disciples earlier in the Gospel of Mark, after curing another blind man. Their answer explains the crowds’ dismay at the bold cry of blind Bartimaeus. “John the Baptist, and others Elijah, and others one of the prophets,” they reply. No one was saying that Jesus was the Messiah. No one was calling him “son of David.” Only his closest followers know the truth: “You are the Christ.” It was to be their secret — for now.
But a blind beggar on the outskirts of society must have been listening intently to the words of Jesus and to the reports about him. Deep in his darkness, like rich soil, the seeds of the word had fallen on good ground and suggested the secret to Bartimaeus, too. He may not have had sight, but he had “ears to hear” (Mark 4:9). And he had heard.
He had more than heard. He had been growing faith in the darkness — “growing up increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:8) — until, learning that Jesus is passing by, his belief spills out into a cry for mercy: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” Despite the protests of the crowd, he calls out all the more. His determination grows. He is unhesitant, unflinching. Now it is Jesus’ turn to hear. And he, too, hears.
Bartimaeus leaps at Jesus’ summons. He doesn’t need to be told twice. This is his moment with the One he — and all of Israel — has been waiting for. This was the Savior who would free a nation and who had the power to free him from his prison of darkness. Already a ribbon of light had wound itself into his mind; already a morning star shone within. Day was dawning, and at the words of Jesus, the sun rose on a new life for this man of faith: “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” And he who had seen the truth in his heart could now see with his eyes.
But there is only one “way” for Bartimaeus, and that is with the Messiah. He follows Jesus who is on his way to Jerusalem for the last time, who is “taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins,” as the second reading from Hebrews reminds us, to give the ultimate sacrifice and to glorify “the one who said to him: You are my son: This day I have begotten you.”
The son of David is the Son of God. What a gift to know and believe. Do we truly “see” him in the midst of our struggles and believe in the power he has over the dark places in our own lives? Do we have the courage to call out to him in our brokenness and name our hopes?
He has ears, and he will hear.
and coordinates adult faith formation at her parish in Phoenix, where she lives with her husband and their six children.