Jesus asks, 'What do you want me to do for you?' Sunday Reflections, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Christ Healing the Blind (detail), Lucas van Leyden [Web Gallery of Art]
Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)
Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
Gospel Mark 10:46-52 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)
They came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.
Fr John Burger is an American Columban who served as a member of the Columban General Council from 2006 until 2012. He spent the early years of his priesthood in Japan and tells a wonderful story about a blind man who was a member of a prayer group in a parish where he served. Each week the group met to share on the following Sunday’s gospel and to pray. Father John was a little nervous when this Sunday’s gospel came up, wondering how his blind friend would respond.
He and the others were astonished when the man shared that this was one of his favourite passages in the gospels. Why? Because Jesus asked Bartimaeus, What do you want me to do for you? The blind parishioner went on to say that he was quite happy as he was. He had his own apartment and he knew his way around. But if the Lord were to ask him directly, What do you want me to do for you? He would tell him that there were parts of his life where he would like Jesus to shed his light, even though he would hesitate to ask him to do so.
Probably the blind Japanese man had experienced people, with every good intention, wanting to help him when he needed no help. On a pilgrimage to Lourdes in Easter Week 1991 with a group of persons with physical disabilities I shared a room with our leader, Joe, able-bodied, like myself, and Tony and Tom who weren’t. Both needed help in some very personal matters. However, I learned very quickly from Tom not to do something for him when he could do it himself. That was a very good lesson for me.
Jesus didn’t presume that Bartimaeus wanted his sight back. He asked him, What do you want me to do for you? The blind man, who had shouted Jesus, Son of David, a title indicating he was the Messiah, answered, My teacher, let me see again.
Do I allow Jesus to ask me, What do you want me to do for you? And if I allow him do I have the faith of Bartimaeus to tell him what I want him to do for me? Jesus responded to the faith of the blind man: Go; your faith has made you well. And the blind beggar’s response to this was a further expression of his faith: And immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Christ Healing the Blind, Nicolas Colombel [Web Gallery of Art]
On 11 October 2012 in hishomily at the Mass marking the opening of the Year of Faith and the 5oth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council Pope Benedict said, The Year of Faith which we launch today is linked harmoniously with the Church’s whole path over the last fifty years: from the Council, through the Magisterium of the Servant of God Paul VI, who proclaimed a Year of Faith in 1967, up to the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, with which Blessed John Paul II re-proposed to all humanity Jesus Christ as the one Saviour, yesterday, today and forever. Between these two Popes, Paul VI and John Paul II, there was a deep and profound convergence, precisely upon Christ as the centre of the cosmos and of history, and upon the apostolic eagerness to announce him to the world. Jesus is the centre of the Christian faith. The Christian believes in God whose face was revealed by Jesus Christ. He is the fulfilment of the Scriptures and their definitive interpreter. Jesus Christ is not only the object of the faith but, as it says in the Letter to the Hebrews, he is “the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith” (12:2).
Bartimaeus seemed to have grasped something of this, calling Jesus by a Messianic title, Son of David, putting his faith in him and following him on the way.
Fr Cyril Axelrod CSsR is the only deaf-blind priest in the world. He was born profoundly deaf but became blind more than thirteen years ago from Usher Syndrome. He ministers to people who are deafblind and to people who are deaf. You can read about him here. In this video Father Cyril speaks to seminarians.
When I was in secondary school we studied some of the poetry of John Milton, most of which I disliked. But his sonnet On His Blindness was an exception.
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
‘Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?’
I fondly ask. But Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: ‘God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.’