An American Columban colleague of mine, Fr John Burger, now a councillor to our Superior General in Hong Kong – the Council recently moved there from Dublin – told a beautiful story about today’s gospel (Mk 10:46-52) in a video.
Father John had a prayer-group in his parish in Japan. Each week they read a gospel passage, shared their reflections on it and prayed. One week the story of Bartimaeus was the text chosen. My friend was a little anxious as one of the members of the group was a blind man. What would he have to say about this gospel?
As it turned out the blind man told the group that it was one of his favourite passages because Jesus asked Bartimaeus, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Many of us, when we meet a blind person or a person with some other disability tend to think ‘How can I help this person?’ The person may not need any help at all. This blind man in Japan had often experienced unnecessary, though well-meant, ‘help’. But he was profoundly touched by the fact that Jesus didn’t presume to know what Bartimaeus needed but asked him first. As it happened, he answered ‘Lord, let me receive my sight’. Jesus responded to his request.
Father Burger’s parishioner went on to tell the others in the prayer group that he was quite content being blind. He had his own apartment and knew where everything was. But there were areas in his life where he hadn’t yet let Jesus in. If he allowed Jesus to ask him the question he had asked Bartimaeus he would invite him to enter those areas in his life.
I have often used this story at the beginning of retreats.
Mk 10:46-52., RSV. And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; rise, he is calling you." And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" And the blind man said to him, "Master, * let me receive my sight." And Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.