Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday in the 8th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
New Sight New Life

Readings: 1 Peter 2:2-5, 9-12; Psalms 100:2, 3, 4, 5; Mark 10:46-52
Picture: CC Melting Mama

It’s no coincidence that a day after reflecting upon the image of dazed disciples on the road to Jerusalem, blinded and transfixed by the brilliance of the Word-Made-Flesh, we are told about the healing of the blind Bartimaeus. For we may well remember that this is not the first blind man whose sight Jesus restores. The blind man of Bethsaida was the first. Together, these two miracles serve to bracket the crucial middle section of Mark’s gospel, the part where Jesus speaks repeatedly to his clueless disciples about his impending Passion. But they don’t get it. Unlike the blind men who are restored to sight, they remain incapable of seeing Jesus for who he really is, what he really stands for, and what it means to follow him.

The contrast between blindness and sight is significant. Before Bartimaeus receives his sight, he remains pitifully stranded by the side of the road. Like the deer we spoke about yesterday, he is unable to move even to save his own life. In like manner, although the disciples enjoy physical sight and seem already to be accompanying Jesus along the way, their spiritual blindness renders them incapable of truly being his disciples. As is clear from the request of James and John and the reactions of the other ten apostles, they remain stuck in worldly perspectives, mired in earthly desires. Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory. They are unable to appreciate the great mystery that the Son of Man has to suffer and so enter into his glory. They are incapable of being true disciples.

But we are told that upon receiving his sight, Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the road. Having received the grace to appreciate the deeper and awesome significance of the Word-Made-Flesh, Bartimaeus is able to become a true disciple. And the first reading highlights for us something of what this entails by bringing to mind several images. First, new sight implies new birth. And just as newborn babies require special food, so do new disciples need to ensure that they continually nourish themselves with the spiritual honesty modeled for us by Jesus himself. Next, new sight also implies new affiliations. New sight leads disciples to associate themselves ever more closely to Christ so as to become living stones making a spiritual house. And finally, new sight also leads to a new identity and mission. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

New birth and new building, new identity and new mission: all these follow from the new sight that Jesus brings. Together, they constitute a whole new way of life. But to enjoy this newness, we must first realize the extent of our blindness. We must first acknowledge the different ways in which we remain stranded along the road, dazed and transfixed by the brilliant scandal of a God who deigns to suffer. And, like Bartimaeus, we must receive the courage to cry out with all our might, even when other voices might seek to silence us. We need continually to beg the only One who can save us: Master, let me see again… Grant me new sight that I might live a new life in you…

How might we continue to do this today?


  1. How are we to realize the extent of our blindness? In the Johari Window theory, we could only know that much. Otherwise, our blind spots wouldn't be called blind spots, wouldn't they? And most people won't choose to give direct criticisms to others, would they?

    Hmmm... Maybe we need to ask friends, relatives, guides, students, customers, etc. to tell us our faults. Tactfully, I hope! Probably we also need pray to the Lord that He will reveal to us our hidden faults. And in Ignatian tradition, at the end of each day, to review what has happened in the day and examine our conscience. This threefold discipline is not easy to keep up though.

  2. There is probably an unintended irony here. The key message in this post and the previous post (Dazed By the Headlights) seems to be that the disciples remain incapable of seeing Jesus for who he really is, what he really stands for, and what it means to follow him. Personally, I find myself having problems trying to grasp the message and questions properly. It's only upon repeated readings that this came out strong and clear.

    That the disciples experienced amazement, fear AND paralysis as they followed Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, where he said he will be condemned, scourged, and put to death (last Wed readings, Mark 10:32-34).

    "We must first acknowledge the different ways in which we remain stranded along the road, dazed and transfixed by the brilliant scandal of a God who deigns to suffer."

    Once we realize who Jesus really is (Son of God and Prince of Peace), what he really stands for (Love & Truth, Death & Resurrection), and what it means to follow him (to be ready to love & suffer as he has loved & suffered, even to the point of death on a cross, and that it's in dying that we are born again), I wonder how many of us are filled with enthusiasm and raring to imitate him and share in his suffering?

    So then, it takes time/effort (wisdom from above?) to know Jesus, and more ... to realize that we are dazed and transfixed by this brilliant scandal, and even more ... to know just what keeps us "stranded along the the road", and what would "unfreeze" and get us going on the way.