Meditation of Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa: XXX Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 2021

Published: October 21 Thu, 2021

Meditation of Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa: XXX Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, 2021 Available in the following languages:

October 24, 2021

XXX Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

In the Genesis account that tells of the sin of Adam and Eve (Gn 3), a significant place is given to the sense of sight: it’s said, in fact, that the serpent promises Eve that “your eyes will open” (Gn 3:5); immediately after, Eve sees that the fruit is good, takes it and eats it (Gn 3:6); actually eyes are opened, but to see their nakedness and feel their shame (Gn 3:7). The eyes are opened, but they see now in a distorted way, they see everything starting with themselves and not from the relationship with the Lord. And therefore, they only see partially, they no longer see reality in its entirety. Their relationship with the Lord is wounded, and, when He come, the man hides himself: he can no longer see Him, recognize Him, bear His presence.

And it’s interesting that, on the contrary, in the meetings with the Risen Christ after the resurrection, it is the eyes that are first involved: in many episodes there is a typical expression “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (cf. Lk 24:31). There is a healing of the eyes, the disciples learn again to see the Lord and to see reality in its entirety, because the total reality is the Paschal Mystery, the mystery of death and resurrection.

For all of this, it is highly significant that the last miracle of Jesus is the healing of a blind man, done on the final stage of His way to Jerusalem, when He is approaching the Holy City.

It is the one and only miraculously cured person whose name we know, just as we know the name of the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus. And this, perhaps, because Bartimaeus is a disciple, and in the few verses that relate to him there is the entire journey that the disciple is called to make in order to see.

First of all, Bartimaeus hears (Mk 10:47): he is described as a beggar, seated on the side of a road, and therefore like a man without dignity, but a living man, who still wants to live, who still hopes.

And as he hears, then later he can cry out, and his cry is a prayer: in Mark, indeed, Bartimaeus is unique in calling on Jesus in the vocative way, and this tells of trust, a sure expectation.

Later Bartimaeus expresses a desire, and it is Jesus Himself, with His question (What do you want me to do for you?” Mk 10:51) that places before him his truest desire, that gives him the possibility of expressing it: “that I may see again.” In Jesus’ words, there is a clear reference to last Sunday’s passage that in the Gospel also directly precedes today’s: then, James and John ask the Lord to do for them what they are asking, but Jesus makes known to them that in reality they really don’t know what they are wanting. Bartimaeus, instead, knows it and asks Him with trust and, unlike the disciples, asks Him without a demand.

He asks Him in a relationship that becomes increasingly intimate, finally calling Him “Rabboni,” “my Master,” a term that we find only two times in all four Gospels: here, and in John 20:16, on the lips of Mary Magdalene.

Therefore, after this pathway of trust, desire, intimacy and prayer, Bartimaeus turns back to see: he sees what he wants to see most, that is, the face of the One who has healed him.

But the journey is not finished, indeed, it begins right here.  Bartimaeus, who was seated on the roadside like a man without a goal and without anyone to follow, places himself on the journey before Jesus, and Mark uses for him the verb of following: Bartimaeus becomes one who follows Jesus along the way (Mk 10:52). He became a disciple.

At this point, it is interesting to compare this miracle (the final one, as we’ve said), with the first account of Mark: we are in the first chapter (1-28), in the synagogue of Capharnaum, where Jesus delivers a man from an unclean spirit: there, in the synagogue, the unclean spirit stood quietly, and he felt threatened only in the moment when Jesus enters, because there cannot be any relationship between the holy and the impure. Like the beggar, the impure spirit also cries out, but does not cry to be healed. He tells who Jesus is, but He tells it too soon, and in a way he is not telling the truth, he does not see it, because the entire truth will be just after the Paschal Mystery, when he will see that Jesus is the Christ at the price of the cross.

There, under the cross, in fact, Mark places another personality that sees: it’s the centurion, who seeing Jesus dying in that way (Mk 15:38), recognizes that the man is the Son of God. He sees a God who lives real holiness not as separation, but as sharing, as taking on our impurity so that we can be saved.

Then we can say that this last miracle is symbolic of an event that will happen in Jerusalem, of the healing that will be offered there for us and that will become ours through the gift of Baptism, a sacrament of life and illumination, of healing that sin which prevents us seeing the glory of the cross and the life of love.

+ Pierbattista