By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 28th October , 2018
Preached at St Ninians & St Chads Parish, Perth
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mt Lawley
The phrase, “There’s none so blind as those who will not see,” is attributed to John Hayworth in 1546, but it summarises today’s readings.
The prophet Jeremiah told God’s people who were returning to their homeland after their exile in Babylon, that God would gather them together from many distant places. Among them would be the blind, the lame who were considered to be out of favour with God. God would be their guide and provider as they rejoiced in his goodness.
The last healing miracle recorded in St Mark’s gospel is the healing of blind Bartimaeus, which took place on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem where Jesus would make his last attempt to call God’s people to repent and return to faithfulness in him.
Bartimaeus was blind and therefore considered to be a sinner. His lack of sight prevented him from being a follower of Jesus so he shouted out to Jesus for an assurance that God had not abandoned him. He asked for mercy but the crowd told him to shut up. Jesus stopped and called him and asked him the very same question that he had asked James and John when the disciples argued among themselves about who would be greatest in God’s Kingdom. James and John wanted the best seats in the heavenly banquet, in other words they asked for power, but Bartimaeus asked for his sight to be restored.
In the book of Isaiah, sight and blindness are equated with faithfulness and unfaithfulness to God’s laws. Jesus often described his opponents as blind guides. In Isaiah, anyone who recovers his or her sight is seen as moving from ignorance of or disobedience to God’s truth, to embracing that truth. Bartimaeus recognised Jesus as revealing God’s truth and wanted to embrace it, so much so that he threw his cloak that was used to receive donations, and approached Jesus empty handed and open hearted. Jesus restored Bartimaeus’ sight and told him that his faith had saved him.
Bartimaeus’ response was to follow Jesus along the road or way that led to Jerusalem, where the epistle to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus the great High Priest, offered himself on the altar of the Cross as a sacrifice for our salvation. The way that Bartimaeus walked was the way to the Cross and of the Cross. It was the Way of discipleship.
In placing this healing miracle where he has in his gospel, Mark is making clear to his readers that the correct answer to the question, “What do you want from me?’, is not to win the Lotto or to be pain free, healthy, wealthy and enjoy wonderful relationships.It is the answer Bartimaeus gave. It is not the request for honour and power that James and John made.
Bartimaeus asked for recovery of sight, and in one form or another, blindness affects all the groups of people in today’s gospel story. It affects Jesus’ opponents, the religious leaders, his disciples and the crowds that followed him.
All of us suffer from some form of spiritual blindness, and we too currently have some leaders who are blind guides. Painful as it is, the exposure of abuse, cover-ups and failures of leadership might well be akin to a spiritual cataract removal forced upon us to make us in the Church to clearly see our weakness and return to God’s truth revealed in and through Jesus and expressed in the teaching of the Church. The calling to discipleship is a calling to faithfulness. It is a calling to reject the distorted views and false perspectives of those who have dismissed God from their lives and thinking. Crucifixion followed the healing of Bartimaeus, but the restoration of his sight gives us hope that we who are the Church will see clearly again.
Monsignor Entwistle was the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. Educated at St Chad's Theological College, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Blackburn in 1964. After reception into the Roman Catholic Church, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Cathedral, Perth on 15 June 2012.