by Father Mike Stubbs
It is becoming more and more common for people to embark on a second career.
Perhaps someone has spent many years working in business and then decides to go into teaching at a grade school or a high school. Or maybe a person has served in the military and then, on retiring, learns to become a nurse.
In Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mk 10:46-52, we see a man who takes up a second career.
Bartimaeus is a blind man who earns his living by begging. He sits at the side of the road outside of Jericho, with his cloak stretched out alongside him for passers-by to toss coins in, much as street buskers do now.
It is significant that this is the road that leads to Jerusalem, about 15 miles distant from Jericho.
A sizable crowd is walking on the road. Many of them, perhaps most, are pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the upcoming feast of Passover. In the midst of that crowd, though, is Jesus, with his disciples.
When Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is passing by, he asks Jesus to have pity on him. In response, Jesus calls to him. Bartimaeus flings aside his cloak and comes to Jesus.
By flinging aside his cloak, Bartimaeus is signifying that he is abandoning his way of life as a beggar. In place of that, he is switching to a new way of life, that of a disciple.
The Gospel story makes this clear by informing us that, after Bartimaeus received his sight, he “followed him on the way.”
Bartimaeus then accompanies Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, the place of his death and resurrection. Bartimaeus is able to do this because of the miracle that Jesus worked in restoring his sight.
When Bartimaeus tells Jesus, “Master, I want to see,” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
The Greek verb used here has the double meaning of either “to save” or “to make well.” Jesus’ response could be translated also as “your faith has made you well.”
In other words, Jesus’ response can mean both that Bartimaeus has received physical healing as well as spiritual healing. He has received both physical sight as well as salvation because of his faith.
Both the gift of physical sight and the gift of spiritual salvation will enable Bartimaeus to walk on the road to Jerusalem as a disciple of Jesus.