This morning’s Gospel reading is Mark 10:46–52:
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
It’s been a long, tough week here at Tí Morrissey, and we have had no small need for respite and relaxation. We finally got to spend a night out with friends yesterday, but between hospital runs and low-energy days, we have pretty much spent the entirety of our energy. We have grasped at the diversions we can find to give us a little opportunity to recharge the batteries — physically, emotionally, and perhaps even spiritually.
Among these has been Expedition Unknown with Josh Gates, one of our favorite television shows. Gates combines archaeology, history, exotic locations, and a great sense of humor to make a fun, entertaining, and educational reality-TV show. It combines escapism with wonder and comedy, and we’ve been hooked for some time. Over the last few weeks, though, Gates and EXU have taken a more serious turn as they look at the greatest unknown expedition of all — life after death, faith, and sometimes the rejection thereof. Gates treats all points of view with respect, and thus it makes for compelling if sometimes unusual viewing.
The content of the story arc (over several episodes) aside, the question it prompted for me was about the role of faith in our journey. What do we seek, and what can we hope to achieve in this life, if not the next? Today’s Gospel reading put it in all of this in perspective for me.
This episode from Mark comes as Jesus approaches Jerusalem for His Passion. James and John have just asked Jesus for power, a rich man wanted salvation and all his riches together, the disciples tried to keep the children from Him, and the Pharisees had tried to trap Jesus by demanding He endorse the practice of divorce. No one yet saw the Word as Jesus was teaching it; no one yet fully saw the love of God through the Law as He meant it to be received.
At this point, Bartimaeus stops the entire multitude as they processed through Jericho, crying out for mercy. Once again, the disciples of Jesus tried to restrain someone from approaching him, this time in his blindness. But Jesus called him over to strengthen his faith and restore his sight.
Now, this is not the only healing miracle that Jesus performed; the Gospels are full of those reports. Nor is it the most profound; the other Gospels have Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead right before His entry to Jerusalem. However, the restoration of Bartimaeus’ sight strikes me not just as another healing miracle, but as a testament to the role of faith in a fallen world.
Faith allows us to see the world as it is, and as it is meant to be. We have many ways and means for perceiving the world, from the mundane to the marvelous, but those only allow us to see what is, not why it is. Science provides us fantastic views of the world and its workings, but science alone cannot explain what its purpose is or to whose end it serves. We need science to be proper stewards of creation, but science is not creation itself.
Our faith allows us to put reason and hope together. I certainly won’t try to recapitulate St. Thomas Aquinas in a few brief words, but his conclusion of the necessity of a Prime Mover demonstrates the power of embracing both. If we accept a Creator, which Creation itself suggests, then we must consider the why of Creation, and our role within it.
The opening of Bartimaeus’ eyes through faith symbolizes that sense of revelation. So too does the restoration of Paul’s sight on the road to Damascus, after then-Saul’s slavish devotion to persecuting Christ’s followers to keep focus on temple worship — that which could be seen and grasped in the physical world, rather than faith in the Lord through Christ, which could not.
This gift of sight carries burdens of its own. We see the Light, but we also gain perception of the darkness, too. We see the love of God, but we also see the self-love of vanity and arrogance in ourselves and others, too. We comprehend the beauty, order, and purpose of Creation, but we also perceive the avarice and gluttony of those who wish to manipulate it for their own glory rather than to Him who created it.
This puts us on the path of salvation, and of fulfilling our baptismal offices of priest, prophet, and king in Christ’s name. In order to grasp salvation, it is not enough just to see — we must see what truly is, what truly could be, and who both serve in the end. Faith has the power to open our eyes to all this, even if we only comprehend it dimly, or as Paul later writes, “through a glass, darkly.” In that sense, we are on an expedition, and much of it may well be unknown — but we can have hope in the destination, and in He who leads us there.
Addendum: If you have never watched Expedition Unknown, we highly recommend it.
The front page image is a detail of “Healing of the Blind Man” by Duccio di Buoninsegna, c. 1308, on display at the National Gallery in the UK. Via Wikimedia Commons.
“Sunday Reflection” is a regular feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection represents only my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion. Previous Sunday Reflections from the main page can be found here. For previous Green Room entries, click here.