(Adults, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
Often, when we listen to the Bible, we hear something about following. Sheep follow the Good Shepherd. People follow Jesus. We call these people disciples. When Jesus leads and others follow, we say they are in right-relationship. This is the way to build the Kingdom of God. He leads, we follow. But what if someone cannot follow Jesus? What happens then?
As Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.
Jericho is not far from Jerusalem. Jesus and his followers have been on the way to Jerusalem for so long. They are finally beginning the last stage of their journey. Perhaps they begin to hurry.
As they begin the last part of their journey, they encounter Bartimaeus. He is blind, and St. Mark tells us that he is a beggar. What does it mean to be a beggar? Someone begs if they cannot get what they need on their own. When people cannot work for money, when they do not have food or water, clothing or a home, they beg. What does Bartimaeus need?
When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
When Jesus comes near—when Baritmaeus knows that it is Jesus—he calls out for what he needs. We might have expected him to ask for money. We might have expected him to ask for food or water. But Bartimaeus asks for mercy. What is mercy?
Mercy is a gift. We cannot get it on our own. We do nothing to deserve it. We cannot earn it. Mercy is the gift of someone so great, given to someone who is so much less. But what is mercy?
Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The people following Jesus want Bartimaeus to be quiet. Why? A large crowd makes lots of noise. Bartimaeus can hardly be adding too much more. Perhaps the people do not want Bartimaeus to beg Jesus for mercy. We have to wonder why not. If Bartimaeus needs mercy, how can he get it, if he does not beg?
When Bartimaeus does not get what he needs, what does he do? Does he listen to the crowd of people? No. Bartimaeus calls out even louder. He knows Jesus has mercy to give, and he wants some. But what is mercy?
Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.”
As though he has forgotten his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus stops. In the middle of all those busy, noisy, moving people, Jesus stands still. It is as if he has been just waiting for Bartimaeus to call.
And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
Something has changed. First, Bartimaeus was sitting still by the side of the road, while everyone else was passing him by. Now, he is in motion! Now he springs towards Jesus who has stopped still for him.
Is this mercy?
Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.”
Face-to-face, Jesus asks him a question. "What do you want me to do for you?" It is the same question we heard last week, when James and John want to sit at his right and at his left in all his glory. But Bartimaeus does not want to sit. He wants to see.
What does Jesus do?
Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Bartimaeus can see! What a gift! Jesus does not make Bartimaeus do anything in return for the gift. He simply says "go." Bartimaeus has the choice to go wherever he chooses. The gift is completely free. Perhaps this is mercy.
Jesus does not touch Bartimaeus or speak special words nor does he even seem to pray. He simply says that it is Bartimaeus' faith that has made him well.
Mercy and faith.
They seem to go hand-in-hand.
Mercy is passing by where someone is begging.
Faith is calling out, "Jesus, have mercy on me!" and calling out again, when nothing seems to happen.
Mercy is standing in stillness to call to someone in need.
Faith is springing up and coming in answer to the call.
Mercy is asking, "What do want me to do for you?"
Faith is speaking our need for help, honestly.
Mercy is removing all the things that block us from following, free of charge.
Faith is following, when we could choose to go somewhere else.
When we discover that we are not following Jesus on the way, what can we do? Our faith tells us to go begging.
Jesus, have mercy on me.
But what does the account of Bartimaeus show us?
Mercy comes first.
When we discover that we are not following Jesus on the way,
it is at that moment that Jesus passes by, just waiting for us to call out.