There were 44 of us who went on a pilgrimage to Portugal, Spain and France. We visited beautiful cathedrals, shrines of Fatima and Lourdes. We also saw Santiago de Compostela—a 13 day journey which afforded us the opportunity to travel in the foot steps of Teresa de Avila and San Juan de la Cruz. We celebrated Holy Mass at the home of St. Ignatus de Loyola. Yet, a notable common denominator throughout the pilgrimage were the beggars. Unfortunately they were in the perimeters of every place we visited. Can’t help but connect the Bartimaeus story with the people we saw on our journey.
Some of us stopped to give them something, others did what is most common—we ignored them. We are all familiar with the arguments: “They are a bunch of drug addicts, they’re going to just buy booze, they probably have more money than we do.” No doubt that the majority of people just look the other way when they encounter a beggar on the street. That’s what the disciples tried to do—that’s what the crowd did when Bartimaeus called out to Jesus. They rebuked him, telling him to be silent. He was an interruption. However, Bartimaeus did not give up. He called out louder, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Who was the blind person (s) in the story? Who was more aware of the Divine presence? Although Bartimaeus could not see, he obviously saw much more than the folks who were following Jesus. He saw his opportunity of salvation. Therefore he risked everything. When Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak there was no going back. The cloak was where the people dropped the money. The cloak was his livelihood. The cloak represented his security to keep from starvation. Bartimaeus had no guarantee—he had faith. Big difference that we sometimes confuse.
We want guarantees—proof—signs that our prayers will be answered. And when there is no answer or when we don’t get what we want, when we want—some folks loose faith—some despair—some even stop believing. The challenge is to be like Bartimaeus—to throw away our security blanket. Once we call out to Jesus—when we give our life to Him, there can be no going back! No fair to keep our foot in the door of old ways. Making a change in our life is never easy—takes courage—takes faith—not only faith in God but also faith in ourselves.
We got to think enough of ourselves to believe in the goodness that God has placed in us. God has never cheated anyone. All the folks who hold grudges—who say they can’t forgive—who are angry at the world—it’s because they don’t like themselves—they’ve sort of given up on life—sad way to live. Look at Bartimaeus. He didn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself. He made a move—the right move. Sometimes when we see folks out in the street who are begging—rather than jumping to conclusions—how about asking ourselves what we can learn—how we can benefit from their witness. They haven’t given up. We might be in the car, nice clothes, money in the bank—but what’s inside? Doesn’t the inside matter more than the outside? Every person is the incarnation of Christ. Each person has something to offer the world. The crowd learned an important lesson the day that Jesus stopped for a blind beggar. He called him, asked him what he wanted, then healed him. Jesus did not ignore him. A blind beggar led the way as the crowd stood with their mouth opened in disbelief. Bartimaeus gave witness to unconditional faith. “Master, I want to see.” Simple prayer that was answered on the spot.
Jesus answered Bartimaeus, He will answer our prayer too. In the end, we are all beggars in need of healing.