Are we still holding on to our own world, even as the creator of the world passes by?
We have all seen the scene in romantic comedies when one or the other member of the cute leading pair realizes what the audience long ago saw coming: They are meant for each other.
At that point, the lover throws caution to the wind: He shouts his love in an embarrassingly public way. She dances for joy in the rain, hardly noticing that she’s getting wet. Suddenly, all of the reserve that held them back from each other is gone.
Bartimaeus is like that this Sunday, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B).
He shows what it means to be shamelessly in love with God — but also what our reaction to people like that normally is.
Bartimaeus is the blind beggar who was sitting by the side of the road when he heard that Jesus was passing by.
He began calling out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!” but “many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” We can picture the scene. The great religious figure is passing by, so his followers want to enforce a little decorum on the streets.
It didn’t work, though. “He kept calling out all the more, ‘Son of David, have pity on me!’”
There are many lessons to take from Bartimaeus.
One is that we shouldn’t impede people from calling out to Jesus. But too often, we do.
Sometimes, it is direct: I remember one story about an Irish entertainer who as a young man had come home from a retreat on fire for the faith and wanting to be a priest. His family reacted with embarrassment. “Hey, we all went through a phase like that. Don’t be crazy. Let it pass,” they said. So he never tested his call.
Often, though, we are less direct. We may notice a coworker, relative, or neighbor feeling a loss, feeling empty and in pain. They may even confide in us. And we may decide not to tell them about Jesus or the faith. We don’t want to seem like a fanatic, or we think religion is too private to mention.
Their heart is crying out for the one thing that can restore them, and we keep them away from Jesus.
But another meaning is this: Jesus always answers those who “shamelessly” call out for him.
But imagine being Bartimaeus, and not the disciples, in the story. What would we do if Jesus was passing by and his handlers were hushing us up? Would we be polite and quiet — or would we make a scene as we demand to see our Savior?
That depends on what we know of Jesus — and ourselves.
Bartimaeus had tried life without Jesus. He hated it. Without Jesus, he was just a blind beggar on the street. When he had a chance to change that, he made a scene.
Have we reached that point? Are we still holding on to our own world, even as the creator of the world passes by?
Ironically, when we turn to him shamelessly, all shame disappears.
The First Reading and Psalm tell the story of what happens to Israel when it finally admits, in exile, that God is what it needs.
Like the father of a tearful child, God can’t resist them when they repent and turn back.
“I will gather them from the ends of the world,” says the First Reading, “with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng.”
And the people’s joy is unstoppable. “When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming,” says the Psalm. “Our mouth was filled with laughter.”
“Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing,” it sums up. Those who shamelessly approach God will be filled to overflowing with happiness.
Would we be shameless for Jesus? The question is not theoretical. He is passing by us right now.
Jesus is present in his Church, in the sacraments and in his priesthood, as the Second Reading alludes to.
“The Sacrment of Holy Orders communicates a ‘sacred power’ which is none other than that of Christ,” says the Catechism (No. 1551). Through grace, the priest is an alter christus — another Christ.
To shamelessly come to Christ for us means to go to confession, and speak to him without fear, telling him all our shame us so that he can fill us with rejoicing instead.
When we do that, Jesus will ask us what he asked Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?”
We should answer forthrightly like he did. “Master, I want to see.”
“I want to know your presence. I want to see sin for what it is. I want to see you so clearly that I can share you without fear to those who need you. I want the abundant life you promise.”
He will answer that prayer just as he did in the Gospel: “Go your way. Your faith has saved you.”