God Wants to Be our Ally

October 25, 2015: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 31:7-9
Psalms 126:1-6
Hebrews 5:1-6
Mark 10:46-52
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Christ’s question to the blind man seems out of place. “What do you want me to do for you,” He asks. Isn’t it obvious? Isn’t it clear that the blind man wants the Lord to cure him of his blindness? Of course it is. Yet, Jesus makes Bartimaeus ask for what he wants.

Why? Because Jesus respects this man’s freedom, and He invites him to make an explicit act of faith; it is not a mere formality, but an expression of love.

To understand this, we have to picture the scene. It’s a hot, dry, dusty day, and noisy, impatient crowds fill the streets. Blind Bartimaeus must have been breathless with excitement and exertion. He must have been disoriented even more than usual after being led about quickly by the disciples who brought him through the restless crowd to Jesus. The blind man couldn’t see the warmth, gentleness, and sincerity of Christ’s eyes, so the Lord chose to communicate those things with His voice. The question He asked, and the way He asked it, stripped away any nervousness, fear, and hesitation that the blind man may have been experiencing. Somehow, after hearing the question, Bartimaeus knew for certain that Jesus cared, that Jesus wanted to listen, to help. The brief exchange draws these two hearts together: the beggar is freed from any possible inhibitions and given a chance to bare his deepest longings to the Lord. The Lord welcomes them, takes them into His own soul, and grants them.

This beautiful, powerful, life-transforming exchange is a prototype of all Christian prayer, which God wants to be eminently personal and sincere.

He is our God, and yet He wants to be our ally, our friend, our confidant.

The real question is, will we let Him?

In the early 1900s, a German named Herr von Osten trained his horse Hans to count by tapping his front hoof. Apparently, Hans was a quick learner, because von Osten soon had him performing amazing feats in front of paying audiences. Hans the clever horse demonstrated a talent for adding, subtracting, dividing, and performing complex mathematical calculations. He was even able to count the number of people in a room or the number of people wearing eyeglasses. As his fame grew, he became known as Clever Hans, the smartest horse in the world.

But some doubters accused von Osten of deceiving the public by using trickery and sleight of hand to make money; they demanded proof of Hans’ mathematical abilities. The first test the doubters came up with involved calculating numbers that people other than von Osten randomly selected on stage. Using his hoof, Clever Hans pounded out the correct answers every time. In the second test, one person whispered a number in Hans’s left ear and another person whispered a number in his right ear. Hans was told to add the two numbers and pound out the sum. He couldn’t do it.

On further investigation, it was found that Hans could solve problems only if someone he could see knew the answer. When Hans was given numbers and asked to compute them, spectators leaned forward and tensed their bodies as Hans began tapping his hoof. When Clever Hans had tapped the correct number, onlookers relaxed their body postures and nodded their heads, which was Hans’s signal to stop tapping. Hans was indeed clever — not because he could calculate, but because he knew where to look to find the answers!

Bartimaeus kept the eyes of his heart focused on Christ, no matter what the crowd was saying, and he found all the right answers: we should do the same.

God wants to be our ally, but entrusting our cares to Him, keeping our eyes focused on His heart, is risky; it takes faith. One of the great ironies of this Gospel passage is that the one man who couldn’t see with his eyes was the only man able to see with his heart. All the other people in the crowd told him to be quiet and let Jesus pass by in peace. They didn’t think Jesus would want anything to do with a poor, blind beggar on the side of the road.

However, Jesus did want to have something to do with him. Jesus wants to have something to do with each one of us. He really is capable of bringing His warmth and light into the dark, cold places of our souls, just as He easily brought light to the eyes of Bartimaeus. All we need is faith.

“Your faith has saved you,” He told the beggar.

He said that for our sake too, to point out where the path of interior renewal lies. It’s not through yoga, transcendental meditation, and aromatherapy; it’s through faith; it’s through trusting in the God who created us and who died on a cross to show us how much He loves us.

We all have faith; otherwise, we wouldn’t be here today.

Moreover, we all know that we need a stronger faith; otherwise we wouldn’t be here today.

How can we exercise our faith and make it grow, so God’s light can transform us more and more? We can do exactly what Bartimaeus did: pray. He begged the Lord from the bottom of his heart to have mercy on him. When Jesus asked him what he wanted, he told Him.

Today, during this Mass, let’s do the same.

Let’s open our hearts to God, and let His light stream right on in.

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