Reflections from the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart
By Fr. Simione Volavola, MSC (St. John the Baptist Parish-Ottosville, PA)
Dear brothers and sisters
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” (Mark 10:51)
Today we reach the end of a very important section of Mark’s gospel. The section begins with the healing of a blind man in Bethsaida and ends with the healing of another blind man, Bartimaeus, in Jericho. These two healing stories of blind men bookend Mark’s response to the heresy that Jesus was just a miracle worker whose career ended tragically on the Cross.
The suffering and death on the cross that Jesus predicted for Himself to the disciples was not something that was seen to belong in their vision of success, of greatness, of glory, of divine life, of eternal life. It just did not fit their vision of Jesus and their messianic expectations of Him.
Mark recounts for us how Peter, immediately after the healing of the blind man in Bethsaida (Mark 8:2-26) and how James and John (in last week’s gospel Mark 10:35-45)) immediately before the healing of Bartimaeus in Jericho struggle and even resist Jesus revelation of a messianic vision that includes suffering, death and resurrection.
Peter, James and John are blind. They are blind to Jesus’ vision of saving the world. They insist on their own vision of world success, of greatness, of eternal life without weakness, vulnerability, menial service, sacrifice, laying down one’s life for others, of suffering and death.
Peter, James and John are blind. Yet, just as the two blind men were healed of their blindness, so will Peter, James and John be healed of their blindness. It will be gradual and may seem frustratingly slow, but it is sure.
Just as Peter, James and John were blind, so are we. Just as they were healed, so will we. So let us ask ourselves how we may be refusing to see weakness, vulnerability, service, suffering and death as a very necessary part of Jesus’ vision of eternal life for us.
In our parish as in the Church worldwide, we as disciples have struggled and have strayed in our response to Jesus who has taught us to deny ourselves and our vision of greatness, carry our crosses and to follow Him to eternal life through losing our lives for His sake and for the sake of the gospel.
Like Peter, James and John, we struggle and are repulsed by the notion of pain and suffering, of sacrificing and dying for others. We cling rather to the blindness of choosing only comfort, luxury, wealth, pleasure and constant sensory stimulation and overload. This is what greatness is to us. In our blindness, this is what happiness and joy and peace consist of.
So when we look around us today and see all the pain and suffering that surround us, all the scandals and the confusion and anger and bitterness that arise from them, when we see the empty pews, the closing parishes and schools, the declining number of believers and disciples of Christ, when we see broken marriages and families, the warring religions and countries, do we like Peter, James and John just wish Jesus would just flex His divine muscles and display His power in some aggressive and definitive way?
We do. Often. A lot. In secret and in our words and actions. Our collective aggression, zealotry, animosity and hatred for one another continue to mount. We all are aggressively insisting on our own very polarizing vision of success, greatness and happiness.
Today we can stop and must stop to learn from the blind man Bartimaeus. He knows he is blind. He knows that he only gropes in the dark and does not know what seeing is. Bartimaeus knows whom to seek, whom to aggressively call out to for that vision he has been groping in the dark for so long.
Today we must learn from Bartimaeus the very thing to ask for, that very thing that James and John Zebedee did not ask for, “Master, I want to see.”