In today’s First Reading Jeremiah describes the gathering of the scattered Israelites in exile as a sort of new Exodus, a new pilgrimage, where even the weak, sick, and helpless will not be left behind. It is a return to the Promised Land for everyone, despite their failings and limitations, with the Lord guiding and leading them, leaving the tears of exile and separation behing in order to return to joy.
In today’s Gospel we see Our Lord starting to gather together everyone and lead them. Crowds are starting to follow him, and in Biblical symbolism moving away from Jericho is often considered as moving away from sin, especially when heading from there to Jerusalem. In the midst of all the excitement we find poor and blind Bartimaeus, who is stuck. He ekes out an existence begging and knows with his blindness that going anywhere is difficult if not impossible. He hears the commotion and doesn’t know it is Jesus of Nazareth passing by, but when he does, he starts to beg Our Lord for mercy. The people in the crowd try to silence him, probably thinking he’s giving the same old line he uses for begging from others, but, as the Second Reading reminds us, our High Priest is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring: Jeremiah said no one would be left behind, and Our Lord is fulfilling that prophecy and curing the crowds from a spiritual blindness toward another’s needs. Jesus restores Bartimaeus’ sight and Bartimaeus joins the pilgrimage too: the Lord is leading him to a more joyous life.
When we are stuck in life, especially spiritually, struggling with our faults and failings and unsure how to get out of the rut we’re in, we too can ask the Lord for help. He will help us see a way forward, but not just a few directions to get us down the road: he will help us see so that we can follow him to where we truly need to go. Let’s follow him and also imitate him, not leaving anyone behind.
Readings: Jeremiah 31:7–9; Psalm 126:1–6; Hebrews 5:1–6; Mark 10:46–52.