“Take courage; get up, he is calling you” (Mark 10:49).
Do we desire God’s love like the blind man desires his sight? The story of the blind Bartimaeus is one of my very favorite healing stories in the Gospels. It is a story that I have prayed with since I first began discerning my religious vocation. I remember one time, when I prayed with the story of Bartimaeus I realized how much Bartimaeus must have desired Jesus and his mercy. He was willing to look ridiculous in front of everyone else. He was willing to leave behind his cloak and everything else in order to encounter Jesus. As I prayed, I also realized my own desire and longing for Jesus.
When Jesus Passes By
The movements or moments in Bartimaeus’ healing reveal a great deal about God’s mercy, and especially about God’s mercy in relation to our discernment and our vocation. “On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, son of David, have pity of me.’” When Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is passing by, his knee-jerk reaction is to cry out for mercy. He asks—begs—out loud for Jesus to have mercy on him. Bartimaeus may not have met Jesus before, but he knows that he wants Jesus to enter his life. He wants Jesus to act in his life. In some way, Bartimaeus wants Jesus to be his life.
Jesus “passes by” in our life, too. Sometimes it’s a homily that we hear at Mass. Sometimes it’s a text message from a friend that makes our day. Sometimes it’s a smile from someone we pass on the street. Recently I was riding the subway and saw a girl get on with her little brother who was crying. A gentleman saw them and began chatting and joking with the little boy to cheer him up. When they got off, I remember thinking to myself, “That was Jesus, passing by just now.” Our lifestyle of discernment should include noticing when Jesus passes by and our reaction. How does Jesus "pass by" in our lives? Do we acknowledge him? Do we call out to him like Bartimaeus did?
Stepping Towards Jesus
“So they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take courage; get up, he is calling you.’” Jesus responds to Bartimaeus’ plea for mercy. I have always found it interesting that Jesus does not come over to Bartimaeus; instead, he stops and asks Bartimaeus to come over to him. This took a great deal of courage on Bartimaeus’ part—remember, he couldn’t see! But Bartimaeus responds wholeheartedly to Jesus’ call. Not only does he get up and go to Jesus, but he also leaves behind his cloak. His actions say that he needs nothing in his life except Jesus and his mercy.
There are certainly instances in my prayer life when Jesus asks me to take a step toward him. Often this takes courage. Always it takes trust. Sometimes trust might mean believing in what Jesus is doing even if we don’t understand it. Sometimes trust means continuing to communicate when we don’t feel like it. Sometimes trust means praying when we don’t feel like it! But Jesus desires the gift of our trust and our love. He truly cherishes our love. Bartimaeus shows us the beauty of making this gift to Jesus.
“Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.” Jesus gives Bartimaeus the free gift of his mercy in the concrete form of the gift of sight. And just as Bartimaeus responded to Jesus’ call earlier, so now Bartimaeus responds to this gift of mercy by following Jesus. Bartimaeus assents to Jesus’ mercy remaining active in his life by his choice to follow Jesus.
Just as discernment includes noticing the presence of Jesus in our lives, it also includes allowing that merciful presence to remain active in our lives. Living out of that mercy is our vocation. Bartimaeus models receiving Jesus’ mercy. Pope Francis tells us that Jesus’ gaze of mercy frees, heals, and loves; it “restores sight to the blind” (“Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee of Mercy”). Let us, like Bartimaeus, call out for God’s mercy, get up and go toward his mercy, and receive it and respond to it. Let us allow God’s mercy to heal our blindness.
A Discerner’s Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Heal us from whatever blinds us to receiving your mercy. Shine the light of your face upon us, that we may not just understand but respond generously to your invitation to follow you more closely.
Sr. Emily Beata Marsh, FSP, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She professed her final vows in June 2018. She is currently serving in the Pauline mission of evangelization through the media and in the vocation apostolate in Alexandria, VA.