10/28/12, I Want to See

Jeremiah 31:7-9, Hebrews 5, 1-6, Mark 10:46                                                                              

Almost 20 year ago, I had an experience that turned out to be one of those unexpected “teaching moments” in life. I was with my two teenage daughters in a mall in Illinois.  We were having a grand time of sillyness and fun as we shopped for dormitory needs for the daughter who was beginning college in Chicago. As we passed a center kiosk displaying glasses of all kinds, I stopped to try on some different sets of frames. Now I had never in my life worn glasses and it was a matter of some pride for me to have 20/20 vision as no one else in my family could claim that place of perfection.  So I put these glasses on and peered at the sign next to them and… whoa!  It said “If you can see this line, you need this strength reading lens.”  I took the glasses off and the line became all fuzzy and unreadable.  What a revelation!  At a certain level, I was blind.  I needed reading glasses and I hadn’t even been aware of what I hadn’t been seeing clearly.  It was embarrassing to admit that my pride and ignorance had been contributing to my maintenance of a faulty view of the world, who knew for how long?

During September and October, our readings from Mark have week by week described the experiences shared by Jesus and his disciples as they journeyed through a number of towns on their way to Jerusalem.  All along the way Jesus has been predicting that he will suffer and die when they get there, but the disciples have just not understood what his teachings and miracles are supposed to mean.  They think that the special power he seems to have indicates that he is destined to be the military messiah who will overthrow the Roman domination of Israel.  That’s why when Jesus asked James and John, “what do you want me to do for you?”  they replied that they wanted to sit beside him in seats of honor. 

Today, Jesus and the disciples are on the last leg of this journey.  (The next stop in the Gospel of Mark is the entry to Jerusalem, the one we read about on Palm Sunday. ) As they walk along, a blind beggar by the side of the road insistently calls out for Jesus’ attention, even though people try to shush him up.  Finally Jesus stops and says, “call this man over here.”  With that, the shushers tell this man that Jesus is calling him.  So without a further thought for his safety or his dignity, the blind man throws off his cloak and runs to Jesus. 

Then Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?” Without hesitation, the blind man says simply, “I want to see.”  And Jesus responds just as simply, “Go, your faith has saved you.”

The passage concludes: “Immediately Bartimaeus received his sight and began to follow Jesus along the road.”

What a contrast this story makes to how James and John responded to Jesus’ question!  “What do you want me to do for you?”  They wanted fame and position and honor.  And Jesus tells them that it’s not his prerogative to grant them that request.  

What does this simple beggar want? “I just want to see.”  Jesus tells him that his faith has saved him. Forthwith, he receives his sight and joins the crowd following Jesus to Jerusalem. 

This question prompts us to ask today:  “What do I want Jesus to do for me?” Do I want to see?  And if so, is it just perfect physical eyesight that I want, or perfect anything in this earthly realm?  Or is it that I want to “see” in the sense that I want to really know the truth about life and its meaning and what Jesus has to do with all of this?  Am I willing to toss off my pride and dignity and other possessions that may have accrued during my life and simply go after this Jesus with trust in order to “see?”  Am I brave enough to acknowledge the things that I don’t see clearly about this human spiritual journey and to tell Jesus that I DO want to see clearly and that my intention is to follow his teachings all the way to the end of the journey- even though I don’t know where that will end up taking me?  Or will my past religious history, when I thought I saw it all clearly and had a certain amount of pride and dignity in that knowing keep me stuck in a place where I actually have a faulty view of the Christian faith, where I am walking on in religious blindness?

All this begs another two questions:  what does it mean to be saved and what is faith?

 

The story we read today teaches is that faith is simple trust.  The blind man had confidence that whatever power Jesus possessed, trusting in that power was sufficient to grant his request for sight.  Jesus said it was his confidence that saved him… not belief in a set of doctrines about God.  And the saving part?  This story occurred before Jesus’ crucifixion, so Jesus couldn’t have been talking about belief in a blood atonement.  As we have mentioned in previous homilies, the real meaning of “salvation” as it was used in early Judeo-Christian language was connected with the idea of the Jews being liberated from slavery in Egypt.  To be saved, for a Jew, was to find one’s freedom. 

 I believe we could justifiably interpret Jesus’ message to blind Bartimaeus as, “I don’t have to give you your sight; your faith has already done that. Faith in me enables you to see what I see. Go on your way.  Your trust gives you the freedom to see what you need to see in order to follow me on the journey.” 

Here in the Lumen Christi community, we have confidence that the light of Christ shining on our path shows us realities of faith that we were blind to before.  Our eyesight is being gradually adjusted, perhaps by our willingness to put on a new set of lens through which to view our faith.   Renewed vision gives us the freedom to walk that journey of faith with simplicity and joy.  As they say in Spanish, ULTREYA!  Onward!

By Sandi DeMaster