October 22, 2015
Father Joseph Previtali
What must I do to be saved? To ask this question – truly, authentically, honestly, in the depths of our hearts – is already a profound gift of grace from Jesus Christ. How often do we ask this question? How seriously do we take this question? Do we realize it is possible not to be saved?
This question about eternal salvation is asked frequently in the Bible. It is a question that Jesus wants us to ask. The purpose of His life, death, and resurrection is to answer this question. If we don’t ask the question, Jesus isn’t relevant to us! We need to ask the question!
The story of Bartimaeus, which we have in our Gospel this Sunday, is meant to stir our hearts both to ask and to answer this deeply important question of salvation. Bartimaeus, we are told by St. Mark, was begging on the side of the road near Jericho. As Jesus passes by, Bartimaeus calls out for Him, persevering in his crying for Jesus even when he is discouraged by the bystanders. Do we yearn for Jesus? Do we shout for Him in the darkness of our spiritual blindness? Do we keep on crying for Him even when our sins and demons try to keep us silent?
Bartimaeus will not be silenced by his shame. He perseveres in begging for Jesus to have mercy on him. How humble is this cry for mercy! Bartimaeus is admitting that he needs mercy, that he needs salvation. He is admitting that he has sinned and that he cannot save himself. Do we acknowledge humbly that we have sinned? Do we know that we cannot save ourselves? Do we cry out for mercy?
Jesus rewards Bartimaeus for his perseverance and calls him to approach. Bartimaeus seizes upon the opportunity, throwing aside his cloak, springing up, and coming before Jesus. St. Bede the Venerable comments on this dramatic willingness of Bartimaeus that “he throws away his garment and leaps, who throwing aside the bands of the world, with unencumbered pace hastens to the Giver of eternal light.” Am I willing to throw aside the garment of my attachments to the world? Do I spring forward out of mediocrity, ready to hear what Jesus would command? Am I ready to love Him?
Here Jesus asks His provocative question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Behold here the great wisdom of Our Lord, Who is teaching us what we must do to inherit eternal life. “Could He who was able to restore sight be ignorant of what the blind man wanted?” St. Bede asks. “His reason then for asking is that prayer may be made to Him.” Here we arrive at the climax of Jesus’s encounter with Bartimaeus and Jesus is teaching us the necessity of prayer. Indeed, Bede continues, “He puts the question, to stir up the blind man’s heart to pray.” Do I pray? Do I pray daily? Do I pray humbly and perseveringly, with faith and trust?
“Master, I want to see.” Domine, ut videam! Lord, that I may see! Bartimaeus teaches us how to pray. To be saved, we must pray with desire, with perseverance, with willingness to turn away from sin and follow the command of Jesus. To be saved, we must pray for salvation, for the sight that leads to Spiritual Light. To be saved, we must beg Our Lord for His grace. This is the deepest meaning of Bartimaeus’s story for our lives.
October is the Month of the Holy Rosary. There is no better daily personal prayer than this “compendium of the Gospel,” which combines the best of vocal and mental prayer. Meditating on the mysteries of our salvation in the Heart of Mary, we stir up in our hearts the holy desire that gives birth to the humility and eagerness with which Bartimaeus received his salvation from Jesus. The daily recitation of the Holy Rosary will make us to follow the good example of Bartimaeus, which we must do if we wish to be saved. Lord, that I may see!
Father Previtali is parochial vicar at Our Lady of the Pillar Parish, Half Moon Bay.