30th Sunday of ordinary Time Cycle B
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” Mk 10:49
The miracle of the curing of the blind man outside Jericho is perhaps one of the most interesting of what we might call Jesus’ parables in action. The parables of Jesus are marvelous lessons concerning the salvation offered to man by God through Jesus Christ and sometimes they are taught through deeds and not just words. This miracle can be seen as a parable on the relationship between faith, prayer, and salvation. In fact the action in this story seems to take place on two levels simultaneously, the immediate and apparent level of the man’s very human desire for a miraculous cure of his blindness, and a second more profound, and not so apparent level of the drama of salvation that is taking place in this incident.
In point of fact, what is ultimately important here in this miracle account is not the physical miracle of curing the man’s blindness, which is obviously a great good and a good that everyone can see, but rather the hidden miracle of his call to salvation which only Jesus can see. Indeed Jesus includes both levels of meaning in his one sentence: “your faith has saved you” where “saved” in biblical language can equally mean your faith has won the miracle, or in the deeper sense, your faith has been your salvation.
The key to all this wonderful drama comes when the people tell the blind man to be silent, and he persists in crying out Son of David, have pity on me.“ He will not be silenced since this may well be his one and only chance with Jesus, who may not pass this way again for all he knows. After all, the blind beggar had no hope for a cure from the physicians of this world. Even if such a cure existed he was a beggar and had no money to pay for a cure. Moreover, he knew there was no medical cure for his condition anyway. But he heard that Jesus of Nazareth, a man who had worked many miracles was passing his way that day outside Jericho, and he was not about to miss his chance to ask mercy from this man with such powers.
So he refused to keep silent when the crowd tried to silence him as Jesus passed by, and he just kept crying out, “Son of David, have pity on me!” In this respect, it’s interesting that he calls out to him twice by a messianic title, Son of David, something we rarely see in the Gospels. Does this blind beggar perhaps already have the seed of faith that this man might be the Messiah himself?
Jesus perhaps answers that question when he says your faith has saved you. So the man’s prayer of petition is very likely an authentic cry of faith, and Jesus, moved by this cry of faith, responds not only with the physical miracle sought for, but with an even greater interior miracle of conversion. He praises the faith of Bartimeaeus, which we cannot see, but Jesus can, and Bartimeaeus immediately becomes his follower. Jesus gives him his sight, and the man responds by giving everything he has to Jesus, he becomes his follower.
It should be obvious that this event and its message are meant not simply for the blind man but for all of us. Surely, we too should have the faith to persevere in prayer as Jesus has taught us here and elsewhere in the Gospels. We too, like the blind man, should have the interior sight of faith to know that no one but He, Jesus of Nazareth, can possibly save us and give us light and life, the true vision of faith and the life of salvation.
By such miracles, Jesus himself encourages us to ask him for things we can only hope for from Him: “Ask and you shall receive,” he says, and we are not to be hesitant to ask, but persist like the blind man because we never know if Jesus will pass this way again in our lives. We should persist in the prayer for salvation because our faith tells us, as Paul says, that He is the great high priest whose very reason for coming in to this world was to be our redeemer and our intercessor before the Father.
It is the faith of the blind man that is praised by Jesus, the faith that was persevering, the faith that wins the favor, and so much more, from Jesus. This miracle reminds one of the play on sight and blindness in John’s Gospel where Jesus cures the blind man in the temple. In both cases, the blind man is physically blind but he receives the interior light of faith that enables him to see Jesus as the “Lord” in John, and “Son of David” here in Mark, both of which are Messianic titles, and this faith enables both to “see” him in new light, not just as the miracle worker, but as the messiah of God who gives them the greater gift of salvation.
We do not know how this blind man came to this knowledge, but he must have known something about the faith of his people in the “Son of David” who was to come, and he must have heard about Jesus’ miracles which suggested his messianic dignity. The blind man, like Peter, may have been inspired by God inwardly to put these things together and conclude that Jesus must be the Messiah, and that meant he could cure his blindness, for curing the blind was to be a sign of his coming according to the Prophet Isaiah.
Maybe this seems farfetched, but something moved that man to cry our Son of David, and, at any rate, the blind man had enough faith to pursue Jesus with his cries, and when Jesus gave him his sight, he had enough interior sight of faith to use his new physical sight to follow Jesus up the road as his disciple. We have other examples in the Gospels of people who are cured by Jesus who do not follow him like this man, for instance, the nine lepers he cured, who have no such faith, and just go on their way to enjoy a new life. But this blind man follows Jesus, and that is a wonderful confirmation of the faith that Jesus praised when he granted the miracle.
Why then do people hesitate to ask Jesus for their needs, both temporal and, more importantly, their spiritual needs? Modern man often prays with little faith and approaches God only when he desires some temporal favor that human means cannot secure. There is little or no faith in this prayer, no readiness to surrender everything to God, including our needs and our wills, surrender all this to God who wants nothing but ourselves, who is concerned above all for the most serious need of all that we have, the need for salvation. Such prayer not only fails to secure an earthly good, but such prayer never leads to salvation.
God is our Father and knows all our needs, but we must ask for them with the heart of His Son, Thy will be done, not mine. Our greatest need is always for God Himself, not just something in this world that God alone can give us. Christian faith believes in the absolute goodness of God’s will for us; but deep Christian faith trusts that God will provide for us only in accord with His good will for us. We, as St. Paul says, often do not know what we should pray for, what is really good for us, not just what we think is good for us. True faith believes that God alone knows what is truly good for us, and such faith trusts that whatever is truly good for us, God wills it. We are told to ask for everything we need, but always with the heart of Jesus, who entrusts everything into the hands of His Father. The blind man is a great example of faith leading to prayer and prayer leading to salvation. We need to follow his example and follow Jesus on His way.