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Breath of the Spirit
Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.
Breath of the Spirit is our electronic spiritual and liturgical resource for our members and potential members. Nothing can replace your chapter or other faith community but we hope you will find further support here for integrating your spirituality with your sexuality and all the strands of your life.
True disciples don’t ask for the glory seats, for high positions in the community, nor for as easy life. They just want to see what God and the risen Jesus want them to do.
OCTOBER 25TH, 2015: THIRTIETH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
One of the keys for understanding Mark’s message in today’s gospel pericope is that his Jesus only twice asks someone, “What do you want me to do for you?” Here, and in last weekend’s reading. We saw that James and John’s response to his question wasn’t the one other Christs should make. Today’s response from Bartimaeus is much more appropriate.
From the very beginning of the passage, the evangelist depicts the blind beggar as doing what individuals called by Jesus should do. First, he’s persistent in demanding Jesus “take pity” on him, even in the face of the crowd’s objections. Second, he immediately responds to Jesus’ call by throwing aside his cloak, springing up, and hastening to him. I presume his discarded cloak - probably his only possession – didn’t hit the ground. Someone else would have grabbed and kept it. Neither does he check his appointment calendar to determine what day and time he can meet with Jesus. Nothing stands in his way. At this point, he’s Mark’s example of a perfect disciple.
So – in contrast to last week’s pericope - how does the perfect disciple respond to Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?” It’s a simple, “Master, I want to see.” True disciples don’t ask for the glory seats, for high positions in the community, nor for as easy life. They just want to see what God and the risen Jesus want them to do.
Notice Jesus’ response. He doesn’t say, “I restore your sight.” Against expectations, he assures the blind beggar that it doesn’t take a miracle to receive the sight to know God’s will. Disciples of Jesus already possess what’s necessary to clearly see what God wants. “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Those who accept Jesus’ value system as their own will know in what direction God expects them to go.
It’s no accident that Mark ends his three prediction/misunderstanding/clarification passages with the observation that Bartimaeus “followed behind him on the way.” Mark’s next passage describes Jesus’ Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem. He has less than a week to live. This particular “way” leads to the suffering, death and resurrection which all Jesus’ followers are expected to experience.
Now Jesus’ command “Get behind me, Satan!” to the befuddled Peter back in chapter 8 makes much more sense. Unlike Bartimaeus, the perfect disciple, Peter isn’t content to follow behind Jesus. He stands in front of him and tells him how he should “do it.” We only know how to imitate another by going behind him or her, not by standing in front of them. That’s how we learn to live the faith Jesus demands.
The unknown author of the Letter to the Hebrews couldn’t agree more. That seems to be why he emphasizes the historical Jesus becoming one with all of us. He doesn’t expect us to become God. He simply believes that we’re called to imitate the faith and actions of another human being. Just as the Jewish high priest was “taken from among humans,” so Jesus was also taken from among us. He did what any of us – with his help - is capable of doing. But, as with Bartimaeus, it all revolves around seeing what Jesus sees.
Even Jeremiah, active 600 years before Jesus, understood that faith helps us perceive what others ignore. He’s able to see Yahweh bringing 8th century BCE Israelite exiles back from Assyria, though such a return hadn’t formally taken place. Such faith constantly perceives a caring God acting as a parent with God’s family, even when a majority of people never seem to notice such loving characteristics.
If we’re not seeing individuals and situations with different, loving eyes, we’re really not following close behind Jesus.