Listen to Fr Jeremy’s Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 28, 2018
Of all the people involved in the Gospel today, one really stands out to me. There is of course Jesus, who seems to walk right by the blind beggar without turning an eye toward him – in itself, surprising, given my general impression of Jesus as ever attentive, ever present, and ever watchful for other’s needs. There is Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, sitting on the roadside leading to Jerusalem at the edge of Jericho. He sits and begs. He listens and cries out. He threw aside his cloak and sprang to Jesus’s side. He has faith and is healed. Certainly these two are the key players in the dramatic miracle event.
But it is not these two that caught my attention in today’s Scripture. It was those among the ‘disciples and the sizable crowd’ (Mk 10:46). While the text is not specific as to who, but when Bartimaeus begins to cry out to obtain Jesus’ attention, “many rebuked him, telling him to be silent” (Mk 19:48). What a response. Think about that. They rebuked him. Here we have a poor man, a blind man, a beggar by the side of the road. He is clearly in need. He clearly had a want. He clearly could use a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. And their response to his efforts to get Jesus’ attention were to rebuke him, to silence him. What sort of person does that? Why would someone do that?
I suppose some may have objected not to Bartimaeus yelling out to Jesus as to the title he called Jesus. “Son of David” has clear messianic overtones. It was not a title thrown around lightly. To make such a claim publically was practically an act of revolt. After all it is this charge that will later be leveled against Jesus at his trial before Pilot – ‘He claims to be a king!’ So, perhaps some politically savvy folks among the crowd with an eye to Roman oversight, want Bartimaeus to be more careful.
Maybe the objection has to do with Bartimaeus’ request for ‘pity’. “Have pity on me!” It is so sad and unbecoming. So self-effacing to request pity, mercy, charity, assistance. It evokes shame, misfortune, disgrace. It brings to light the plight of one we would rather not deal with. It can make those in its presence uncomfortable. It can evoke those places of insecurity in one’s own life. It can make them realize that perhaps they too need pity from Jesus. Best to leave it be and silence him.
Maybe they just did not want their own journey and travels with Jesus to be interrupted by yet another needy person! They are practical. There is a schedule to keep – to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. One can imagine that Jesus was constantly being approached by persons in need of healing or wholeness. The Gospels clearly indicate Jesus spent much time healing the sick among His travels. Perhaps, some of the crowd had seen enough and were tired of the frequent delays. They didn’t want to be bothered, and so they attempted to put down yet another rudely placed interruption into their lives and journey.
“Many rebuked him, telling him to be silent” (Mk 19:48). It is this “many” that has drawn my attention in prayer with this passage. This unspecified, unnamed, largely bystander “many.” Why would you rebuke a man trying to come to Jesus?
And yet, are we not often counted among the ‘many’? Do we not silence the voice of the Faithful who challenge our status quo lifestyles by calls to radical Christian discipleship, sacrificial stewardship, moral observance all because Jesus is King? Christ’s Kingship is ‘inconvenient’ in the modern world with its dictatorship of relativism. Ought we not rebuke those who would dare to make such claims boldly and publicly? There is Truth, clear objective Truth that binds all. There is right and wrong. There are limits to what we ‘should’ do. Be it on the road side, or outside an abortion facility, or as a governor prepares to execute, or a doctor to euthanize. Don’t rock the political boat! Get along.
And yet, are we not often counted among the ‘many’? Do we not cringe at overt neediness, at situations that call for clear pity & intervention? Starving children, homeless, displaced war victims, the sick elderly in nursing homes.
And yet, are we not often counted among the ‘many’? In our busy lives, do we not resent the interruption of the poor, the downtrodden, the person in need, even our spouse or child who has want. Do we not find their requests tiresome and trite, bothersome and to be brushed aside? Do we not want to silence them, to be blind to them, to push them back to the roadside as we travel on our way?
“Many rebuked him, telling him to be silent” (Mk 19:48). But Jesus hear his cry.