A Reflection on Spiritual Blindness

The context of Jesus’ long instruction to his disciples:

The healing of the anonymous blind man at the beginning of the instruction, takes place in two phases (Mk 8:22-26). In the first phase the blind man begins to intuit things, but only just. He sees people as if they were trees (Mk 8:24). In the second phase, after the second trial, he begins to understand better. The disciples were like the anonymous blind man: they accepted Jesus as Messiah, but they could not accept the cross (Mk 8:31-33). They were people who saw people as trees. Their faith in Jesus was not strong. They continued to be blind! When Jesus insisted on service and the giving of ones life (Mk 8:31;34; 9:31; 10:33-34), among themselves they insisted on knowing who was the most important (Mk 9:34), and they continued to ask for the first places in the Kingdom, one on the right and the other on the left of the throne (Mk 10:35-37). This shows that the dominant ideology of the time had taken deep root in their mentality. After living with Jesus for a number of years, they had not yet been renewed enough to see things and persons. They looked at Jesus with the eyes of the past. They wanted him to be what they imagined he should be: a glorious Messiah (Mk 8:32). But the aim of Jesus’ instruction was so that his disciples might be like the blind Bartimaeus who accepted Jesus as he was, a faith that Peter did not have as yet. Thus Bartimaeus is a model for the disciples of Jesus’ time and for the community of Mark’s time as well as for all of us.

A commentary on the text:

Mark 10:46-47: The description of the context of the episode: The cry of the poor At last, after a long walk, Jesus and his disciples come to Jericho, the last stop before going up to Jerusalem. The blind Bartimaeus is sitting by the side of the road. He cannot take part in the procession that accompanies Jesus. He is blind, he can see nothing. But he shouts, calling for the Lord’s help: “Son of David! Have pity on me!” The expression “Son of David” was the most common title that people ascribed to the Messiah (Mt 21:9; cf Mk 11:10). But Jesus did not like this title. He criticized and questioned the attitude of the doctors of the law who taught the people that the Messiah would be the Son of David (Mk 12:35-37).

Mark 10:48: The reaction of the people to the cry of the poor The cry of the poor feels uncomfortable, unpleasant. Those who were following the procession with Jesus try to keep Bartimaeus quiet. But “he shouted all the louder!” Today too the cry of the poor feels uncomfortable. Today there are millions who shout: migrants, prisoners, hungry people, sick people, those marginalized and oppressed, those unemployed, without wages, without a home, without a roof, without land, who never feel loved! Their shouts are silenced, in our homes, in the churches, in world organizations. Only those who open their eyes to what is happening in the world will listen to them. But many are those who have stopped listening. They got used to the situation. Others try to silence the cries, as they tried with the blind man from Jericho. But they cannot silence the cry of the poor. God listens to them (Ex 2:23-24; 3:7). God says: “You will not ill-treat widows or orphans; if you ill-treat them in any way and they make an appeal to me for help, I shall certainly hear their appeal!” (Ex 22:21).

Mark 10:49-50: Jesus’ reaction to the cry of the poor What does Jesus do? How does God hear this cry? Jesus stops and orders the blind man to be brought to him. Those who wanted to silence him, to silence the uncomfortable cry of the poor, now, at Jesus’ request, see themselves bound to act in such a way as to bring the poor to Jesus. Bartimaeus leaves everything and goes to Jesus. Not that he possessed much, just a cloak. It is all he has to cover his body (cf. Ex 22:25-26). It is his security, his solid land!

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