Just outside of Jericho, where the road was teeming with travelers, blind Bartimaeus sat on his haunches begging. To him, the steady shuffling of feet signaled a meager hope that there would be bread before nightfall, as sighted men moved either by pity or guilt would occasionally toss coins into his lap. From time to time, the road grew congested and some careless sandal would stub the toes of the blind man, or kick up a cloud of dust into his face, causing him to retreat - choking and sputtering - swearing into the dark light of day. But the hunger gnawing at his belly soon scooted him near the path again, full of anxiety, for the heavier the traffic, the lighter men's burdens of conscience became and they could easily avoid even a compulsive response to throw a coin into his basket excusing themselves by saying so many others were available to do it.
Such was the dread of the two blind men in today's gospel narrative when the faint roar of the crowd swelled into their ears. No doubt they wanted to know, if they could only discern it, and raise the question with a passerby, "What's going on?" No one provided an answer, so they followed the source of the noise and clamor. Their darkened eyes widened. "Jesus," they bear being whispered by those around them and of course they heard stories rumored about the Galilean. Having risen to their feet and followed after him, waving their hands to gain his attention, they shouted toward the crowd, "Have pity on us, Son of David!"
No doubt those around them commanded, "Sshh!" but "Son of David, have mercy!" is heard repeating itself.
Hearing the cry, the Lord slows his step and cranking his neck, He searches the edges of the crowd. Some one probably tells the blind men, "You have no right to interrupt...." A familiar dagger of rejection penetrates the blind men's hearts as it had many times before. And suddenly the crowd shifts, pushing them back, knocking them to their knees.
Just then, amidst jeers of rejections that this physically impaired duo desire quicker notice from the Messiah than those who have no limitations upsets the mob. The voice of Christ is heard saying to them, "Do you believe that I can do this for you?" Astounded, the blind clients who have so much to gain, yet are so shy in going further forward that a heckler in the crowd encouragingly yells at them, "You heard the man."
As they tighten their grip on his hands, in unison they repeat their request and answer him, "We want to see," and even though they cannot quite grasp the implication of God's response, "Let it be done to you according to your faith," their words resonate into a sudden awareness that without warning they realize for the very first time in their lives, they are staring into the eyes of heavenly compassion. Without saying a thing, it seems as if the mind of Jesus silently expresses itself, "You can see..." very convincingly, "that your faith has healed you."
Blindness comes in many varieties: at times taking the form of tunnel vision stemming from a selfish heart; at others, an actual physical obstruction of sight due to stubbornness; perhaps surfacing as shortsightedness related to ignorance; or a shroud of darkness caused by depression or actual guilt.
Blind Bartimaeus in another instance accounted for in the gospel of St. Mark, issuing a plea from a sightless beggar reveals the far more serious visual impairment of heartless people who leave compassion out of the entire picture of life.
What a relief today to discover that it is not merely physical sight our Lord offers the blind; it is a clear vision of what is desperately and seriously needed in everyone's life: the overwhelmingly unimaginable and astoundingly generous mercy of our God!