The editorial of the month

Rev. Peter John Cameron, O.P

by Rev. Peter John Cameron, O.P

The Gospel account of the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus is a kind of microcosm of how growth in the life of faith takes place.  

 Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.  

Often what first draws us to God is the gnawing darkness inside us. As Father Julián Carrón expresses it, “When I am in endless darkness, so much so that I cannot stand myself anymore, it is there that I am forced to go to the bottom of it and recognize an Other.” And then we start begging this Other.

 He began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”

The ability to say the name of Jesus is itself the sign of a great grace given. The medieval Richard Rolle counsels that, holding firmly to the name of Jesus “purges your sin, and kindles your heart; it clarifies your soul. It wounds in love. It chases the devil and puts out dread.” “Every knee shall bow before the name of Jesus,” says Blessed John of Ruysbroeck, “for Jesus has fought for our sake, and has conquered. And he has enlightened our darkness.”

 He kept calling out all the more.

Jesus reveals that by your perseverance you will secure your lives (Lk 21:19). Sometimes, as Saint John Chrysostom explains, “if God puts off answering us, it is solely to keep us near him for a longer time, as fathers do who love their children. Our perseverance in prayer makes us worthy. God often makes us wait in order to show himself more generous.” Experience teaches us how virtues grow through perseverance in struggle (see CCC 1839). “The essence of every good work is perseverance” (Saint Gregory the Great).

 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

This is the fact that marks the memory of Bartimaeus for the rest of his life: whenever he begins to feel unworthy before God, whenever done in by doubts, faith prompts him to remember that Jesus stopped and called him. The principal mortification of the believer’s life is to keep this truth foremost in mind: It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you (Jn 15:16).

They called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”

Take courage—Jesus will speak this same command the night before he dies (Jn 16:33). “The courage we have in mind here,” says Pope Francis, “is the courage to receive the power of God.”

 He threw aside his cloak.

A cloak was a poor person’s most precious possession (see Ex 22:25-26). The blind man’s spiritual maturity is demonstrated in his detachment, his abandonment to divine providence. “As your detachment increases,” instructs Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade, s.j., “you will feel a greater attraction to God, to prayer and recollection, and to the practice of every kind of virtue. For, when a heart is empty, God fills it and straightway all things we do are done easily and gladly, because they are done with love.”

 [He] sprang up, and came to Jesus.

Like the prodigal son who, coming to his senses at last, declares, I will arise and return to my Father, faith means springing up every day. For faith is active and energetic. To spring up is to be sprung from what formerly imprisoned. We come eagerly to Jesus to listen to him, to take on Christ’s likeness through our obedience, to love him with heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Could he who was able to restore sight be ignorant of what the blind man wanted? His reason then for asking this is that prayer may be made to Jesus; the Lord puts the question to stir up the blind man’s heart to pray” (Saint Bede). Our desires are gifts from God given so that we might know who Jesus is and how he alone can fulfill our deepest longings.

 The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.”

To want to see is to long to be able to look past appearances so as to perceive the inner dimension of everything. The blind man begs for supernatural powers of understanding and of judgment…especially regarding controversies and conflicts that may jeopardize his relationship with God. The vision he requests is the enlightenment of baptism, the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

 Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”

“Faith is recognizing an exceptional Presence, and adhering to what that Presence tells you about himself. Faith is a judgment—not an emotion—that affirms a reality, a Mystery, and your own limitation before it” (L. Giussani). To be saved is to be granted an escape from our own inability.

 He received his sight and followed him on the way.

The sight he received was being able to see how much Jesus loved him. “To follow Christ is simply for people to become human by integration into the humanity of God” (Pope Benedict XVI).