Homily for Thirtieth Sunday B
In our first reading today, the prophet Jeremiah prophesied about the coming freedom and restoration of the people of Israel. They were led into captivity as a result of their disobedience to God, they turned their back against the God that brought them out of the land of Egypt. But Jeremiah prophesied that this same God, the God of Israel will bring back his people and restore their dignity as sons and daughters of His. That prophesy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us in our second reading that Jesus is the high priest, a priest forever. He came not to offer the blood of animals, but his own blood for our freedom and restoration. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly, says the Lord (Jn. 10:10). That life in abundance includes the healing of the body which the blind Bartimaeus received in our gospel passage this morning.
Jesus was on his way from Jericho Jerusalem for the Passover feast, he was accompanied by a large crowed of people, and by the road side was a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus probably wondered what was happening when he heard the noise of the crowed that accompanied Jesus, but when he learnt that it was all about Jesus of Nazareth who was passing; he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus have pity on me. Some persons tried to make him quiet, but he shouted the louder to attract Jesus’ attention. He succeeded; Jesus stopped and invited him. He got up immediately and in excitement threw his cloak and went to Jesus. Jesus asked him a very important question; what do you want me to do for you? Bartimaeus did not hesitate to answer Jesus because he knew what he wanted, Master, let me see again, he said. His sight was restored.
The blind beggar was named Bartimaeus, a very interesting name. The bible tells us that Bartimaeus means the son of Timaeus but did not tell us the meaning of Timaeus. Scholars have argued about the meaning of Timaeus; some said it means honour while others said it means shame. I am not interested in that argument, but in the message of the gospel. Both interpretations of that name have the same message for the Church and the world today.
If the name Bartimaeus means “son of honour”, then how come the son of honour became a blind beggar? It sounds strange, but it is something that is happening today. You and I are sons and daughters of honour, we are children of the most high. We are Christians, baptized and confirmed Catholics, yet we allow the power of sin to blind us. Many sons and daughters of honour have turned their back against he who died to restore their dignity, they now shout to attract the attention of the devil and seek his help. The blind beggar had his eyes of faith open, he was able to see the free flow of mercy from the Son of David and shouted for help from him. Who is your helper? From where does your help come?
Just as Bartimaeus, a son of honour was in a state of lack and cried for help, So also are we; sons and daughters of honour, but we have all sinned, we have driven ourselves so far away from God and fall short of the glory of this honour (Rom.3:23). But the good news today is that the Son of David is passing by. What is stopping us from crying for mercy? What is stopping us from following him? What is making us turn our back against him to seek help from the devil? The blind beggar refused to let anybody stop him, he shouted the louder when the attempt was made to silence him, and the Lord heard his voice.
The name Bartimaeus may mean “son of shame” and not son of honour as some argued, but it did not matter to the blind beggar at all. Call him the son of shame, call him any name you like, it never affected his believe that the Lord could take the shame away from him. We too have become sinful and shameful in our words and actions, but the Lord is able to heal us if we learn to persist in our cry for help. Bartimaeus’ cry was able to make Jesus stop even though he was on his way to Jerusalem and not to Bartimaeus’ house. Do you think others are blessed and you are left out? ‘Shout for help’, don’t let anyone make you quiet, you can make him stop.
The blind Bartimaeus was sitting by the road side putting on his cloak of shame, blindness, rejection, poverty and may be sin. But the moment the Lord called, he threw the cloak away to receive life in abundance. The cloak became useless to him, it became his past. He walked away from it and never returned to pick the cloak, he rather followed Jesus. We too have been called and baptized into his body, are we still with our cloak of shame and sin?
Today, the Church calls us to cry to God for mercy, to pray for the faith to respond to the call of God as Bartimaeus did and the courage to throw our cloak of sin and shame away.