[ Jeremiah 31:7-9 | Psalm 126 | Hebrews 5:1-6 | + Mark 10:46-52]
[__01] The light says go.
In the Gospel we have just read, Bartimaeus is a man who has just received the green light – the Go Signal – of vision after years of blindness.
To summarize this section of Mark, Chapter 10, Bartimaeus is raising his voice, making his presence known to Jesus who is leaving Jericho and in a crowded district/area. Bartimaeus is one of many in promixty and within shouting distance to our Lord whom he summons/calls to audibly, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” (cf. Mark 10:46-52).
Others in the crowd advise (“shout down”) Bartimaeus to be silent. Bartimaeus persists anyway. Jesus comes to him, heals him, saying “your faith has saved you.” (cf. Mark 10:46-52).
And, upon gaining sight/vision, the healed Bartimaeus immediately starts moving, goes in motion. We read, “Immediately [Bartimaeus] received his sight and followed [Jesus] on the way.” (cf. Mark 10:46-52).
[__02] This following – this act of motion would also be one that takes Bartimaeus off of the sidewalk and into the street/road for a longer journey.
Bartimaeus, once stationary is now mobile.
[__03] Several years ago, I was completing a morning commute from New Jersey to New York City. I had exited the bus, and taken the escalators down through the Port Authority Bus Terminal to 8th Avenue.
I was on the sidewalk of 8th Avenue at the corner of 42nd Street, about to walk uptown.
Then, just before I stepped into the road, a blind man stopped me, asked I would accompany him across 42nd Street.
We walked, his hand on my arm, across 42nd on the sidewalk, crossed again at 43rd and then we parted ways around 44th.
This man – many individuals who are blind – navigate their homes, other buildings, and sidewalks – even in large cities with full competence and confidence.
The sidewalk, in particular, has boundaries that can be felt, the wall/window of a store, the building on one side, a curb or fire hydrant, or parking meter on the other side.
The sidewalk was a haven, similar to a beach or harbor. The sidewalk is solid ground. The street, on the other hand, resembles an ocean without markers and without differentiation.
But to go further was a different story. We also need greater powers of vision to go further – to leave the sidewalk of our lives in any literal or symbolic sense.
Dependent on me was the blind man. And, perhaps you have had – or will one day have – a similar experience.
[__04] [ONE] Consider the transition which many of us make or will one day make from being single to being married or from not having children to having a child.
Or, from thinking about – discerning a particular career …to then living out our career, our life’s calling.
In these commitments, we may be called outside of our comfort zones, the sidewalk, the safety of satisfying our own needs first.
And, in many situations –densely packed conditions between brothers/sisters …husband/wife ..or parent/child, we see also see that traffic flows in at least 2 directions. Sometimes, in a family crisis, traffic might move in more than 2 directions.
It may seem safer to stay on the sidewalk.
Do we have the necessary vision?
We also need vision – and God’s grace – to survive and look out for the good of another person.
[__05] [TWO] Consider also the transition from high school to college at FDU, or the transition from our home country to university life and studies in the United States.
In high school – or in our home country – certain things were well defined and known.
We knew how to read the signs.
Here, in a new academic / residential / dorm / cafeteria / eating environment, we are called to a new level of honesty, integrity, community, discipline.
And, we almost always have to manage multiple priorities and, as we say, oncoming cars, trucks, traffic in our way.
Maybe the oncoming traffic is an assignment, expectation from a professor, roommate, the coach, our parents at home.
[__06] In the Gospel, Bartimaeus experiences two changes. First, his sight is restored.
Secondly, he moves to follow Jesus which is also a transition from darkness to illumination.
Bartimaeus can see the light. The light says go.
And, in this case, Bartimaeus does not need the help of another pedestrian to cross 42nd Street or 8th Avenue in NY or Jericho.
Bartimaeus can move without holding on to anyone physically but can, as Jesus, tells him, “go [his] own way. ” (cf. Mark 10:46-52)
[__06.01] A similar message – at the time of the resurrection – is offered to Mary Magdalene – to whom Jesus tells … “do not hold on to me… ”
Jesus wants to give – to us as well – a spirit of confidence in him, a spirit to overcome temptations, to overcome anger, selfishness…
[__06.02] Outside of our regular comfort zone, we may encounter people who tempt us…or who push us beyond our limits. Sometimes, this could be a temptation to do something unjust / immoral.
Through our faith – and learning of the commandments – we learn the right way without having to be taken across the street by anyone elsoe.
And, we learn to leave our comfort zones – the sidewalk – in order to grow.
[__07] Our journey, our discipleship also calls us to follow Jesus, but also to do so with the vision and balance of God’s commandments. This love – and grace - is meant to help us survive and thrive even when we are off the safety of the sidewalk, and we are also invited with Christ’s help, “to go our own way” …which is also the direction in which he is leading. He is our guide.
Seeing the light, experiencing God’s presence and love, this means go.