It sounds ridiculous, that Jesus asks this blind many what he wants from Jesus. What did Jesus think the man would ask for? If we imagine losing any of our senses, I think we would fear losing our sight more than anything else. I know whenever I meet someone blind, I can’t help from trying to imagine what their lives must be like. I think of them very often. I cannot imagine life without seeing.
But perhaps Jesus can imagine a life like that because why else would he ask this man what he wanted from Jesus. Jesus certainly felt the man’s desperation because Bartimaeus just would not stop shouting for Jesus. It’s as if they bring him to Jesus because they cannot figure out what else to do with him. Bartimaeus is going to let them know: he wants to see Jesus.
Did Bartimaeus have needs even greater than being blind? Was the source of his desperation something deeper yet? In the first reading we have Jeremiah’s majestic vision; but it doesn’t talk about any healing from blindness. Jeremiah says that the blind and the lame will be able to accompany everyone else, as if being part of the people being restored as a community was the most important gift anyone could have, a gift that would offset any impediment. The tears of any handicaps are part of the tears of all humankind.
These are the tears of Jesus, the High Priest, who was not afraid to take on our frailty and brokenness; no, his very priesthood is taking our greatest brokenness, our death, on himself and offering it as an act of obedient love to his Father. If we are all joined to Jesus by our tears and pain, then we are joined to the community of Jesus as well.
Look what happens to Bartimaeus after he regains sight. He immediately follows Jesus. That’s probably why the Scriptures can record his name—he became a disciple of Jesus. He was able to walk alongside Jesus and be part of the community of disciples that Jesus was forming. He was able to be part of the great restoration that Jesus was bringing about, a restoration that Jerremiah could only hint about in his prophecy.
Every one of us has impediments. Many times they are not physical impediments but handicaps that go even deeper. Do we ever ask ourselves if we lack things even greater than the loss of sight, or hearing, or a limb? Do we ever wonder if our spiritual deprivations, most of them self-caused, exceed those grotesque physical deprivations that so easily frighten us? Maybe all our deprivations are only overcome by becoming part of the community that God is forming, a community based on shared love and compassion.
I had an opportunity once to ask a blind man what his dreams were like. I was helping him cross the street in New York. “I dream just like you,” he said. “You see things?” I asked. “I hear and feel and smell . . . these are my senses, and this is what I dream. Just like you.” Blind though he was, he did not see himself as apart or different. He saw what was most essential to see, that we are ultimately one.
That’s what Jesus comes to help us see; and, with his Priestly love, he invites us to find our unity in the Kingdom he forms among us.