30 Sunday B - Blind Man - That I may see



Background: 
Today’s Gospel is a classic example of Mark’s use of miracle stories.  He uses them to make a catechetical point, not to overwhelm the reader with Jesus’s power.

 Mark does not deny the power, but emphasizes rather our desire to understand, to grasp, to find meaning.

 If  you want really to see who you are and what you’re life is about, you must listen closely to Jesus, not seeking words which will serve your own agenda, but rather words which challenge you, make you think, force you to reflect.

 Story: 
Once upon a time a very wealthy Yuppie and his girlfriend went on a trip to Africa to hunt lions – with a camera because they were politically correct Yuppies
They were shocked and disgusted by the poverty, the corruption, the hunger, and the sickness of the people in these countries. They told each other repeatedly how everything would be fine in Africa if the local people simply had a sense of initiative and responsibility and developed a work ethic something like the American one.
 As a matter of solemn principle they refused to give money to beggars. When they came home they told everyone that they would never go back – the lions were as lazy as the rest of the people in Africa.

There was no point, they said in spending their tax dollars to help those who wouldn’t help themselves. Didn’t you have any sympathy with those poor people, another Yuppie asked them.

 How can you sympathize, they said, with those who aren’t ready to help themselves?!
 
Michel DeVerteuil
Textual Comments
Jesus’ attitude in this story is extraordinary. All his greatness, his divinity we might say, is expressed here. Follow every detail of St Mark’s narrative and you will find yourself discovering new aspects all the time.
jesus heals with powerWe can distinguish four stages in this encounter, and all of them contribute to the miraculous healing:
– he stops, in verse 49;
– he says, “Call him here” in the same verse;
– “What do you want me to do for you?” in verse 51;
– “Go; your faith has saved you,” in verse 52.
At each stage we can see the respectful love of Jesus, and we know from our own experience that this kind of love can work miracles.

The man’s journey is also significant. Sitting at the side of the road, he is the model of all those who are marginalized, forced to beg for mercy while the great ones of the world pass by. But the faith which saves him is shown by his unconquerable spirit, his refusal to accept that he is destined to remain there for the rest of his life.
There are two groups of bystanders; the first – in verse 48 – scold the man for crying out. They are those who have grown to accept that his predestined place is to remain at the side of the road. Perhaps some of them were also beggars and they are genuinely angry that one of their number would want anything else for himself.
The second group of bystanders, mentioned in verse 49, are the opposite; they reassure the blind man, as if understanding how difficult it is for those who have been at the side of the road for a long time to throw off their cloaks and speak for themselves.
The climax of the story – “he followed him along the road” – is very touching, and you might like to enter into the metaphor of walking as a symbol of what happens when the marginalized take their place in the movement of history.

Scriptural Reflection
Lord, send us leaders like Jesus who,
when they are surrounded by disciples and large crowds
and some blind beggar sitting at the side of the road begins to shout for help,
will not continue walking but will stop,
and not merely throw a handout in his general direction
but call him to come forward and stand in the centre of everybody;
and they will not take for granted that they know what this man wants,
but will take the trouble to ask him “What do you want me to do for you?”
And when the man has begun to see again they will not take any glory for themselves
but will say to all that it was his own faith that saved him
so that he may take his place as a free member of the community
and follow them along the road.
Lord, there are many people sitting at the side of the road,
shouting to us to have pity on them,
but they often shout in strange ways:
* by behaving badly in the classroom;
* by taking drugs and alcohol;
* by sulking, remaining silent or locked up in their rooms;
* sometimes by insisting that they are happy to be at the side of the road
while others pass by.
Lord, like Jesus, we need to stop all that we are doing
so that we can hear them express their deep longing
to have their sight restored to them.
cry for helpLord, the people of the third world have been a long time at the side of the road,
begging, while the wealthy nations in a large crowd make their way
to ever greater prosperity.
When these people begin to shout, asking others to have pity on them,
many scold them as if they are wrong to shout,
as if it is their perpetual destiny to remain at the side of the road and beg.
But you, Lord, have put in their hearts an unconquerable faith
that they too can take their places on the road to prosperity,
and this gift of faith will eventually save them.
Lord, when we have been a long time at the side of the road
it is not easy to stand in front of everyone
and express what we really want for ourselves.
We thank you for those who say to us
“Courage, get up, the Lord is really calling you.”
An Indian sat silently wrapped in his blanket. The leader asked him what he thought of a particular point. No response; the man did not even look up. He asked again; again, there was no response. Again – and the man burst into tears. Eventually, comforted, he said, This is the first time in my life anyone has asked me what I think.’ Then he proceeded to say what he thought for four hours.”  Report from a church meeting in Latin America
Lord, we thank you that Jesus is still leaving Jericho with his disciples
and walking along our roads.
Lord, we remember the day when, through your grace, our sight was restored.
For many years, while other passed us by, we sat at the side of the road,
* lost in drink or drugs;
* refusing to forgive someone who had hurt us;
* making money and success the goals of our lives.
There came a time when we knew that we were blind,
but we felt that we could do nothing about it.
Jesus' mobile phoneThen came a day when we knew you had sent a Son of David into our lives
– a bible reading, a preacher, one of our children, a friend –
and we shouted to them to have pity on us.
There were loud voices within us scolding us and telling us to keep quiet:
it was too late, people would never understand, we were too far gone.
But we shouted all the louder
until eventually the moment came, and we knew it,
so that we threw off all our fears, jumped up and went to Jesus.
It all happened so simply: we just asked to be able to see again
and immediately we saw clearly what we had to do,
and we followed you along the road.
We thank you for the deep conviction that the time of grace had come
for it was that conviction that saved us.
*************************************
 Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
Rather than give an introduction, say something like this: We are gathered here as people called to share in the Lord’s supper. As such, it is appropriate that we should be at least on speaking terms with each other, so let us introduce ourselves to each other by way of preparing for this celebration.
Homily notes
One example of blindness
One example of blindness
1. Blindness is terrifying. Darkness brings before us all our terrors. Not being able to see where we are going is the stuff of most human fears. The poverty and blindness of Bartimaeus speak to any human being of feeling — and, indeed, if there is someone to whom it does not speak, then that person probably would have no time for religion or things of the spirit as she/he would be insensitive to promptings in our imagination that lead us to faith.
2. But thinking of poor, blind, ignored Bartimaeus can distract us. We can listen to this gospel but only hear it in the way we hear a ‘news item’: another detail, a bit of information about someone far away which we might simply believe, or refuse to believe, or simply note that we know it.
‘Oh yes, Bartimaeus, is that not the guy Jesus healed near Jericho or ‘Yes, wasn’t he a lucky guy: right place, right time!’ or ‘That story of Bartimaeus: shows how gullible people were in those days and the power of religious preachers to get their followers to accept accidents or falsehoods as miracles!’
3. Much as these are interesting approaches, all three miss the point, for Mark’s story of the incident of sight being restored is intended to alert every one who hears the gospel to the nature of the work of Jesus.
4. Recall the proverb: ‘There is none so blind as him who will not see.’ Likewise we say that ‘Greed is at the root of all evil,’ but we could also say that blindness is there as well. We have all met people who are blind to the crassness of their actions or statements. We have all met people who are blind to the consequences of the actions or blind to their bigotry or blind to their prejudices. Dare we admit it: our own eyesight might just be a little dim also!
5. We live in a world of blindness. There is the blindness of world leaders who press forward policies that are so short-term that we have whole regions that simmer with unrest. We have blindness that prevents us seeing how policies create injustice and stop development. We have the blindness that sees global warming yet refuses to take action in time.
Closer to our localities we have blind spots about what is really of value in society: we may prefer a motorway to our heritage or we may prefer our holidays to a just wage for workers. Greed finds blindness a steadfast ally.
blind peopleThen in our lives we can find blindness to those around us, blindness to the community, blindness to the needs of those who need us. Blindness can be a great help in avoiding awkward questions of conscience.
6. Asked would we like to leave our blindness behind, to be- come aware of our prejudices, to have our blind spots treated, we all respond with an emphatic ‘yes’ — few of us willingly seek darkness, carelessness, destruction. But it is not as simple as opening our eyes: we need also the gift of new sight. This gift is the ‘enlightenment of faith’, it is the’grace of God’, it is the gift of the Spirit.
turn away7. If we would see our lives, see those around us, and see our world, we must cry out: ‘Master, let me see.’ Then in the face of our need of forgiveness, we have to cry out: ‘Master, let me see again.’ Then knowing that we must grow in our discipleship, we cry out: ‘Master, let me see more.’ . We want the Lord’s gift of sight and enlightenment – this is our prayer every Sunday. We want to follow the Master along the road – we are a pilgrim people. But it is worth re– membering that when Mark said that Bartimaeus set out along the road following Jesus, that road led towards the cross.
**********************************Sean GoanGospel
What Bartimeus saw
What Bartimeus saw
The story of the healing of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, brings to a close the section of Mark that began in 8:27 (the twenty-fourth Sunday of the year). As we have seen the focus has been on the meaning and demands of discipleship. Just prior to this incident Jesus has spoken to James and John saying to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Now he uses the same words, not to one of his closest companions but to a blind beggar sitting by the road who is crying out to him in desperation. James and John were seeking glory, Bartimaeus just wants to see and to gain that he throws away the only thing he owns, his cloak, lest it impede him in his journey to Jesus. His prayer is granted, he receives perfect sight and his response is to follow Jesus along the way. Jesus is leaving Jericho and heading for Jerusalem and so Bartimaeus is presented to us not simply as arecipient of the healing ministry of Jesus but as the model disciple who begs for sight so that he can follow Jesus to the cross and beyond. In the gospel, sight is often used as a metaphor for faith, being able to see God at work and to follow in the steps of Jesus.

Reflection
Clarify your VisionThese readings are talking about salvation. It is one of those words much used in religious conversation but whose exact meaning is unsure for many. Probably most of us think of salvation as having to do with getting to heaven. However, the prophet Jeremiah only thought of God as saving his people in the here and now, offering them comfort, shade and fresh water. For him these are symbols of salvation. The author of Hebrews by contrast was very aware of heaven but for him salvation came about through the solidarity shown by Jesus who became the way we are so that we might become like him. What comes across strongly in the readings is that God never abandons us and that when we speak of salvation we are speaking of the ways in which God brings us to himself, a process which begins now. Lord, that we may see!
*****
THE WORD: Mark’s story of the blind Bartimaeus, which takes place just before Jesus’ Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, is as much a “call” story as a healing story.  For Mark, Bartimaeus is model of faith.  The blind beggar calls out to Jesus using the Messianic title “Son of David.”  He first asks, not for his sight, but for compassion:  He understands that this Jesus operates out of a spirit of love and compassion for humanity and places his faith in that spirit.  Ironically, the blind Bartimaeus “sees” in Jesus the spirit of compassionate service that, until now, his "seeing" disciples have been unable to comprehend.

HOMILY POINTS:
As Bartimaeus realizes, Christ comes to heal our spiritual and moral blindness and open our eyes to recognize the Spirit of God in every person and to discern the way of God in all things; he opens our eyes as well as hearts and spirits to new images of a world made whole by the grace of God, of lives transformed by the love of God.
As he restores to Bartimaeus not only physical sight but a sense of the reality of God’s love for him, Christ comes to our restore our “sight” to see God’s sacred presence in our lives, to heal us of our blindness to the sins of selfishness and hatred we too easily explain away.
Our deepest prayer is the cry of the blind Bartimeaus:  “Master, I want to see” — to “see” with the human heart, to perceive in the spirit, to comprehend in the wisdom of God.

Keep an eye out for turtles
A new bishop began his ministry by driving to all the parishes in his vast diocese to meet his priests and communicants.  He spent the hours driving from parish to parish listening to all kinds of educational tapes and recorded books, believing it was important to be an up-to-date, educated bishop.  And when he arrived at the church he was visiting, he would basically disgorge onto parishioners everything he just learned.  From the looks on people’s faces, however, he got the feeling it wasn’t working.
One morning, while he was driving to his next parish, he saw ahead of him a shape on the road.  It was a turtle.  He braked, pulled over, picked up the turtle from the middle of the road, and placed it safely on the other side.  As he continued to visit parishes, he started keeping an eye out for turtles — and there were a lot of them, struggling across busy roads to nearby streams and ponds.  It became the bishop’s practice to watch for them and to stop and pick them up if they needed help.
After a while, he stopped listening to the tapes because he might miss a turtle, and he started leaving the car windows open so he could smell the air, especially in the early summer.  The bishop discovered that he was more relaxed and attentive when he arrived at a parish, and this was what people wanted and needed rather than his take on the latest theology.

[From The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher.]

In the busyness of our lives, we become blind to the people who mean the most to us and to the pursuits that bring joy and meaning to our lives; in the many demands placed on us, we stop seeing the possibilities for doing good and affirming things.  We can recast a situation to justify or rationalize our own self-absorption, our lack of compassion, our avoiding anyone or anything unpleasant, our refusal to accept responsibility for our actions (or inactions).  In “looking out” for turtles, the bishop rediscovers the compassion and consolation that is the heart of his ministry to the people of his diocese.  Christ the healer comes to restore our “sight,” enabling us to realize the presence of God in our lives and to recognize the opportunities to restore and heal by the grace of that presence.  Our deepest prayer is the cry of the blind Bartimaeus:  “Master, I want to see” — to “see” God’s compassion and forgiveness, his mercy and justice in our midst.  
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 ILLUSTRATIONS:

Fr. Jude Botelho:

The first reading from the prophet Jeremiah reminds us that God is coming to save his people. God is the one who fulfills his promise. “See I will bring them back…all of them, the blind and the lame, the woman with child and the woman in labour. They left in tears; I will comfort them and bring them back.” We often say “Jesus is our Saviour.” We need to ask what has He saved us from? What has He saved me from? If I am not aware of what he has saved me from, I cannot really call Jesus my Saviour. The reading also reminds us that Jesus has a special love and care for the handicapped, the suffering, those who are helpless, those who have no one to pay attention to them, those who no one can save.

I bet you can see God out here!
A man and his son went on a camping trip to the mountains. They hired an experienced guide, who brought them into the very heart of the great forest, and the beauty spots in the mountains that they themselves would never have found. The old guide was constantly pointing out the beauty and the wonders that the passer-by would never notice. The young lad was fascinated by the ability of the guide to see so much in all his surroundings. One day the lad was so impressed that he exclaimed “I bet you even see God out here.” The old guide smiled and replied “Son, as life goes on it’s getting more and more difficult for me to see anything but God out here.” ‘Lord that I might see...’
Jack McArdle from ‘And that’s the Gospel truth!’

The Gospel talks of Jesus meeting the blind man, Bartimaeus, sitting by the roadside begging, who cries out “Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me”. What does this tell us? It reminds us that we have to raise our voice and call out to Jesus in faith and confidence. Perhaps there are times when we need to bear up what we are undergoing silently. But there are also times when we need to raise our voice in petition, and entreaty. We can only raise our voices imploring God to have mercy on us if we believe that He hears our prayer. The crowd shouts at him “Shut up and keep quiet!” Often when people call out for help other people ignore them or silence them. They want perhaps to get something from Jesus for themselves but they don’t want the blind man to get anything. What is the reaction of the blind beggar to the crowds? He shouted all the louder: “Son of David have pity on me.” Instead of being discouraged he puts extra effort in calling out to Jesus. We are people who let others govern our lives. Can we not persist in our efforts a little longer? The Blind man had called out to Jesus, now Jesus calls out to him. The moment Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is calling him, he throws off his cloak and goes to Jesus. Perhaps the blind beggar does not have much, surely the cloak was an important possession. Yet when he hears the call of Jesus he does not cling on to what he has, whatever may be an obstacle in his going to Jesus, nothing is more important than meeting Jesus. We too want to meet Jesus, we too call out to Jesus, but sometimes when he calls out to us we want to hold on to what we have, our cloak, our ways. Then Jesus asks: “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus wants us to know what we truly desire, hence the question to the blind man. But the blind man only desires that his eyes be opened. The last verse of today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus told the man to go his way, but instead of going, the man who received his sight, now follows Jesus. His new sight helps him to follow Jesus.

Transforming Vision
The musical ‘Les Miserables’ is based on the epic novel by Victor Hugo and dramatizes the adventures of Jean Valjean. After serving nineteen years in prison for stealing some bread to help his sister’s starving child, Jean is paroled. Unable to find work, Valjean steals from a priest, who in turn lies to save him from being sent back to prison. Given a second chance, Jean Valjean undergoes a moral and social transformation: he takes a new name, becomes wealthy, befriends a dying prostitute, raises her orphan and twice risks everything he’s gained to save others. -What the Lord did through the priest for Valjean is similar to what he did for Bartimaeus. Both Valjean and Bartimaeus were nobodies –social outcasts, but when Jesus entered their lives, they became somebodies – his disciples. Many are the times Jesus stopped to take notice of us and to transform us. When we were nobodies, he made us somebodies. When we were spiritually sick, he made us whole. When we were down he lifted us up. Can we in turn stop more often to ask people: “What can I do for you? How can I be of help?”
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’

Welcome, but you must let the soil go!

There was this blind man from the lovely island of Crete. He loved his land with a deep intensity, so much so that when he knew he was about to die he had his sons bring him outside and lay him on the ground. And as he was about to expire he reached down by his side and clutched some earth in his hands and died a happy man. He now appeared before heaven’s gates and God in the guise of an old, white-bearded man came out to meet him. “Welcome” he said, “you’ve been a good man, welcome into the joys of heaven.” But as the man was about to enter God said, “Please, you must let the soil go.” “Never” cried the old man stepping back. “Never!” And so God sadly departed leaving the man outside. A few eons passed and God came out again, this time in the guise of an old friend, an old drinking crony. They had a few drinks, told some stories and then God said, “All right, time to enter heaven, friend. Let’s go.” As they started for the pearly gates once more God requested the old man to let go of the soil and once again the old man refused. More eons rolled by and God came out again this time in the guise of the old man’s delightful and playful granddaughter. “Oh granddad,” she said, “you are so wonderful and we all miss you. Please come inside with me.” The old man nodded as she helped him up, for by this time he had grown very old indeed and very arthritic. In fact so arthritic was he that he had to prop up the right hand holding Crete’s soil with his left hand. They moved towards the pearly gates and at this point his strength gave out. His gnarled fingers would no longer stay clenched, with the result the soil sifted out between them until his hand was empty. Empty handed he entered heaven. The first thing he saw in heaven was his beloved land!
William Bausch in ‘Telling Stories, Compelling Stories’

The gift of sight
Helen Keller, who went blind and deaf at nineteen months, said: ‘One day I asked a friend of mine who had just returned from a long walk in the woods what she had seen. She replied, ‘Nothing in particular.’ ‘How was this possible?’ I asked myself, ‘when I, who cannot hear or see, find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch. I feel the delicate shape and design of a leaf. I pass my hands lovingly over the rough bark of a pine tree. Occasionally, I place my hand quietly on a small tree, and if I’m lucky, feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song. ‘The greatest calamity that can befall people, is not that they should be born blind, but that they should have eyes, yet fail to see.’

Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sundays and Holy Day Liturgies’


Give sight to all who are blind!
There is a beautiful anecdote in the book, ‘When bad things happen to Good People,’ written by Harold S. Kushner. There were two storekeepers who were bitter rivals. Their stores were across the street from each other. They would spend each day sitting at the doorway keeping track of each other’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival. One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, “God has sent me to teach you a lesson. He will give you anything you ask for but I want you to know that whatever you get your competitor across the street will get twice as much. If you like to be wealthy, the man across the street will be twice as rich.” The man frowned for a moment and said, “All right, my request is, strike me blind in one eye, so that the man across would be blind in both eyes.” – While the man in this story was praying to become blind, Bartimaeus in today’s gospel was crying out to Jesus to be healed of his blindness.
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’

At last! At last!
Some years ago, there took place in England a most unusual wedding – a blind young man was to marry an extremely beautiful young lady. Very unfortunately, he had been blinded in an accident when he was just ten years old. But that did not deter him from going ahead and becoming an accomplished and successful university honour student. His name–William Dyke. It was at University that Bill met his bride-to-be, a young lady who was as beautiful as she was intelligent. So intense was their mutual love and so devoted their commitment that they decided to marry, even though Bill had a seemingly permanent and irreversible handicap. Shortly before the wedding, however, Bill met a very compassionate and highly skilled eye surgeon, one of Britain’s foremost, who voluntarily offered to operate on his eyes with a view to restoring his lost vision. And so, on the actual day of the wedding, the surgeon led the handsome groom to the altar with his eyes bandaged. As the bride approached her blindfolded groom the surgeon removed the bandages from Bill’s eyes. There were a few unsteady blinks as his eyes adjusted to the light around him. And then, for the first time, Bill looked into the beautiful face of his bride and was thrilled beyond words. Joyfully he exclaimed, “At last! At last!” Indeed his joy knew no bounds for he could actually see what, at one time, were no more than wishful thinking, even more an impossible dream.
James Valladares in ‘Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and they Are Life’

******

An Indian sat silently wrapped in his blanket. The leader asked him what he thought of a particular point. No response; the man did not even look up. He asked again; again, there was no response. Again - and the man burst into tears. Eventually, comforted, he said, 'This is the first time in my life anyone has asked me what I think.' Then he proceeded to say what he thought for four hours." Report from a church meeting in Latin America
 
Lord, we thank you that Jesus is still leaving Jericho with his disciples
and walking along our roads.

Lord, we remember the day when, through your grace, our sight was restored.
For many years, while other passed us by, we sat at the side of the road,

* lost in drink or drugs;
* refusing to forgive someone who had hurt us;
* making money and success the goals of our lives.
There came a time when we knew that we were blind,
but we felt that we could do nothing about it.

Then came a day when we knew you had sent a Son of David into our lives
- a bible reading, a preacher, one of our children, a friend -
and we shouted to them to have pity on us.
There were loud voices within us scolding us and telling us to keep quiet:
it was too late, people would never understand, we were too far gone.
But we shouted all the louder
until eventually the moment came, and we knew it,
so that we threw off all our fears, jumped up and went to Jesus.
It all happened so simply: we just asked to be able to see again
and immediately we saw clearly what we had to do,
and we followed you along the road.
We thank you for the deep conviction that the time of grace had come
for it was that conviction that saved us.  

*************************************
Illustrations: 

From Fr. Tony Kadavil:
1)    An ancient eye test for spiritual blindness: Fr. De Mello tells a story which can help us to check our spiritual blindness. A hermit asked his disciples: “When do you say that the night is ended and it is morning?" The first disciple said: “I say that it is morning when I can distinguish an oak tree from a maple tree.” The hermit said: “No." The second disciple answered: “I know it is morning when I can distinguish a cow from a sheep at a distance.” Once again the hermit disagreed. The third disciple replied “It is morning when no star is visible in the cloudless sky.” “That is also a wrong answer,” said the hermit. Then he explained:” I know it is morning when I can recognize a person as a son or daughter of God, and, hence, my own brother or sister.”

2)    Two famous prayers for spiritual vision: Cardinal Newman prays for clear vision in his famous poem, “Lead Kindly Light”:

 Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom; lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

“Amazing Grace,” As the captain of a British slave ship, John Newton regained his faith during a storm at sea (1747) and became an ordained minister who was very active in the abolitionist movement. He explains how he gained his spiritual eyesight in his famous hymn, Amazing Grace. 

Amazing grace!
How sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
was blind but now I see.

Today’s gospel, which tells of the healing of the blind man, Bartimaeus, challenges us to strengthen our faith in Jesus, the healer, and invites us to gain true spiritual vision.

3)     I wish to be able to see my children eat off gold plates.” According to a Jewish legend there was once a blind man who was married but had no children. Although his life was hard, he never complained. One day as the blind man was sitting by a river, the prophet Elijah came to him from heaven and said, “Even though your life has been hard, you never complained, and so God will grant you one wish.” The poor man frowned. “Only one wish!" he said. “I’m blind, I’m poor, and I’m childless. How will one wish satisfy all my problems? But give me twenty-four hours and I’ll think up a wish.” He went home and told his wife what had happened. She smiled at him and said, “Eat well and sleep soundly, for I know what you should wish.” He came back the next morning and said to Elijah as he appeared again, “I wish to be able to see my children eat from gold plates.” The wish was granted and the man and his wife lived happily for the rest of their days. Today’s gospel presents another blind man whose wish was to regain his sight. Jesus restored sight to his eyes and to his spirit, and Bartimaeus immediately began to follow Jesus as a sighted, witnessing disciple.

 4)    Two Polish men were taking their first train trip to Warsaw on the train. A vendor came down the corridor selling bananas which they'd never seen before. Each bought a banana. The first man eagerly peeled the banana and bit into it just as the train went into a dark tunnel. When the train emerged from the tunnel, he looked across to his friend and said, "I wouldn't eat that if I were you." "Why not?” asked his friend. “Because, it makes you temporarily blind.”  

5)    A motorist with poor eyesight was driving through a dense fog and was trying desperately to stay within range of the taillights of the car ahead of him. As he squinted and worried his way along, trying to stay on course with those taillights, the car in front suddenly stopped, and his car hit the car in the front. The driver of the rear car got out and demanded to know why the other driver came to such an abrupt stop. "I had to," he replied, "I'm in my own garage!" 

6)    Helen Keller, so brave and inspiring to us in her deafness and blindness, once wrote a magazine article entitled: "Three days to see." In that article she outlined what things she would like to see if she were granted just three days of sight. It was a powerful, thought provoking article. On the first day she said she wanted to see friends. Day two she would spend seeing nature. The third day she would spend in her home city of New York watching the busy city and the workday of the present. She concluded it with these words: "I who am blind can give one hint to those who see: Use your eyes as if tomorrow you were stricken blind.'
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From Sermons.com:

7)    As bad as blindness is in the 21st century, however, it was so much worse in Jesus' day. Today a blind person at least has the hope of living a useful life with proper training. Some of the most skilled and creative people in our society are blind. But in first century Palestine blindness meant that you would be subjected to abject poverty. You would be reduced to begging for a living. You lived at the mercy and the generosity of others. Unless your particular kind of blindness was self-correcting, there was no hope whatsoever for a cure. The skills that were necessary were still centuries beyond the medical knowledge of the day. Little wonder then that one of the signs of the coming of the Messiah was that the blind should receive their sight...
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8)    I Heard My Brother Crying 

Some years ago in a small village in the Midwest, a little twelve-year old girl named Terri was babysitting her little brother. Terri walked outside to check the mail. As she turned back from the mailbox, she couldn't believe her eyes. The house was on fire. So very quickly the little house was enveloped in flames.

Terri ran as fast as she could into the flaming house only to find her baby brother trapped by a burning rafter which had fallen and pinned him to the floor. Hurriedly, Terri worked to free her brother. She had trouble getting him loose as the flames were dancing around their heads. Finally, she freed him. She picked him up and quickly took him outside and revived him just as the roof of the house caved in.

By this time, firemen were on the scene and the neighbours had gathered outside the smouldering remains of the house. The neighbours had been too frightened to go inside or to do anything to help, and they were tremendously impressed with the courage of the twelve-year old girl. They congratulated her for her heroic efforts and said, "Terri, you are so very brave. Weren't you scared? What were you thinking about when you ran into the burning house?" I love Terri's answer. She said, "I wasn't thinking about anything. I just heard my little brother crying."

Let me ask you something? How long has it been? How long has it been since you heard your brother or sister crying? How long has it been since you stopped and did something about it?

James W. Moore, Collected Sermons,
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9)    Humor: The Most Difficult Case

Two psychiatrists were talking and one asked the other, "What was your most difficult case?"

His colleague answered, "Once I had a patient who lived in a pure fantasy world. He believed that a wildly rich uncle in South America was going to leave him a fortune. All day long he waited for a make-believe letter to arrive from a fictitious attorney. He never went out or did anything. He just sat around and waited."

"What was the result?" asked the first psychiatrist.

"Well, it was an eight-year struggle but I finally cured him. And then that stupid letter arrived..."

Some people are afraid to open their eyes. And some just keep their eyes closed no matter what.
Billy D. Strayhorn, From the Pulpit
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10) Releasing the Pain, Spreading the Message 

A young seminarian who lost both her parents at an early age shared a way of praying that helped her through the worst of times. She shared that in those most painful of days, she used to sit with her grandmother. Together, they would read the Bible, focusing on two particular passages.

First was the one that follows directly after the Bartimaeus story we heard this morning -- the story of Jesus approaching Jerusalem, when he asks two of his disciples to go ahead and find a colt for him, on which they place their cloaks.

The second is Jesus' invitation in Matthew 11: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
The woman used these two images together to prayerfully imagine Jesus inviting her to take his yoke of love, in exchange for the heavy load of grief, loss, and doubt that she carried. She pictured releasing the pain she carried, which was placed by Jesus on the back of the young colt in exchange for the yoke of spreading the message of Christ's love in word and action.

Suzanne Watson
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 11) The Blind Pastor 

Pastor Steven E. Albertin told the following story. He said, in my church secretary's office there hangs a modernistic picture composed of a maze of colors and shapes. I realized these sophisticated, modern, and abstract pictures were supposed to contain some profound artistic or philosophical message, but I never was able to figure it out. It just looked like a jumbled mass of confusion. If there was a message there, I was blind to it.

One day while I was standing in the office, waiting for the copier to warm up, one of the congregation's kindergarten-age boys, Adam, stood beside me and said, "Do you see what I see?"

"Do you see something in that picture? I sure don't." Adam looked at me with glee in his eye, "Pastor, can't you see him? It's Jesus hanging on the cross." I stared as hard as I could, until my eyes actually hurt from staring. I wanted to believe Adam and that there actually was the image of Jesus hanging on the cross hidden somewhere in that mass of color and shapes, but I couldn't see Jesus anywhere. "Adam, I'm sorry but I must be blind. You will have to help me see."

Directing his finger to a mass of color in the center of the picture, Adam said, "There, Pastor. Do you see what I see? There is Jesus, his face, his arms outstretched on the cross." And then, like an epiphany, the image began to appear. Yes, there hidden somehow "behind" the colors and the shapes was the barely visible image of Jesus, hanging with arms outstretched on the cross. "It's amazing, Adam. You have helped one blind pastor to see Jesus. Yes, I can see what you see, Adam."

Steven E. Albertin, Against the Grain,
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12) Define the Problem

Thousands of years ago a young Chinese emperor called upon his family's most trusted advisor. "Oh, learned counselor," said the emperor, "you have advised my father and grandfather. What is the single most important advice you can give me to rule my country?" And Confucius replied, "The first thing you must do is to define the problem."

Many unhappy people cannot put their finger on what is really causing their distress. Many unfulfilled people cannot even tell you what it would take to satisfy them. Many of us have no clear idea or conception what our real needs, our real desires, and our real priorities are. And because we have never defined the problem or clarified our goals, we spend a lifetime anxiously wandering with very little to show for the pilgrimage.

King Duncan, Collected Sermons,

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 13) Some People Are Never Satisfied 

It is like the beggar in the movie "Monty Python's Life of Brian." Brian and his mother are walking through town and get hit up by a beggar. "Alms for an ex-leper. Alms for an ex-leper, please." And Brian says: "What do you mean an ex-leper?" And the leper says: "Well I was cured" "Who cured you?" Brian says. And the leper says: "That Jesus fellow." He says: "Now I have a hard time making a living, all I've ever known how to do is beg." And Brian says: "Well why don't you go back and ask him to make you a leper again?" And the leper says: "Well, I might not like that. Maybe he could just make me a leper during working hours or something."

So Brian just sighs, drops a coin into his cup and walks away. And the ex-leper looks into his cup and says: "A half a dinari! Look at this - he only gives me a half a dinari!" And Brian says: "Some people are never satisfied." To which the leper replies: "That's just what Jesus said!"

Now Monty Python might be on to something. Jesus may not have said exactly these words but he certainly ran into people who were unappreciative. Blind Bartimaeus was not one of them. Upon receiving his sight he immediately began to follow.

Brett Blair, www.eSermons.com. Adapted from The Catholic Apologetics Network
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 14) Meeting Christ 

History records a time when two people met each other on July 25, 1807, at a spot in the Tilsit River in Prussia. It was a dramatic meeting to discuss matters which carried serious consequences. In the middle of that stream Napoleon and Alexander held a much publicized private conference. It was widely described in advance as a meeting which would "arrange the destinies of humankind." Cannons boomed, and the shouts of thousands of soldiers gathered on each side of the river added to the noise as the conference began. There the Treaty of Tilsit was drawn up which allied Russia and Prussia with Napoleon. World history and millions of lives were forever changed.

Bartimaeus had an opportunity to meet Christ, one on one, and took advantage of it. As a result, he was greatly blessed. You and I have the same privilege of meeting with Christ, one on one. Christ is calling you. Will you come? Such an encounter, for each one of us, is by far the most important in our lives, for it will arrange the destiny of your life.

Brett Blair, www.esermons.com, Adapted form Harold H. Lentz,
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 15) Born of the Spirit Not the Process 

Duke University psychiatrist Redford B. Williams has written a book called The Trusting Heart (New York: Random House). What he has discovered is that Type A behavior will not kill you. Grueling schedules, workaholism, stress, hurriedness - all these "Type A" personality syndromes are not predictive of early death. Only hostility, cynicism, aggression, and orneriness - these are the killers. People who cannot trust, people who can only control, are in more than spiritual jeopardy. Their health is on the line as well.

The crowd that tried to quiet the boisterous blind man was evidently embarrassed by Bartimaeus' loud, direct method of expressing his needs and petitioning his desires. There were established channels by which to petition the Lord for healing or forgiveness - why didn't Bartimaeus submit to them? The crowd, like so many of us, preferred to put its trust in the Process instead of in the Spirit. But Jesus did not say to Nicodemus, "You must be born of the Process." In fact it is only when we free ourselves from the deep ruts that "following the process" has carved into our lives that we become able to trust in and follow the wings of the Spirit, wherever it may lead.

Leonard Sweet 

BLINDNESS
Matt. 9:16,17    John 12:37-41
In his book, An Anthropologist on Mars, neurologist Oliver Sacks tells about Virgil, a man who had been blind from early childhood. When he was 50, Virgil underwent surgery and was given the gift of sight. But as he and Dr. Sacks found out, having the physical capacity for sight is not the same as seeing.
Virgil's first experiences with sight were confusing. He was able to make out colors and movements, but arranging them into a coherent picture was more difficult. Over time he learned to identify various objects, but his habits--his behaviors--were still those of a blind man.
Dr. Sacks asserts, "One must die as a blind person to be born again as a seeing person. It is the interim, the limbo . . . that is so terrible."
To truly see Jesus and his truth means more than observing what he did or said, it means a change of identity.
Terry Seufferlein Norman, Oklahoma.

In his brilliant new book, Catching the Light, quantum physicist Arthur Zojanc writes of what he describes as the "entwined history of light and mind" (correctly described by one admirer as the "two ultimate metaphors of the human spirit"). For our purposes, his initial chapter is most helpful.
From both the animal and human studies, we know there are critical developmental "windows" in the first years of life. Sensory and motor shills are formed, and if this early opportunity is lost, trying to play catch up is hugely frustrating and mostly unsuccessful.
Prof. Zajoc writes of studies which investigated recovery from congenital blindness. Thanks to cornea transplants, people who had been blind from birth would suddenly have functional use of their eyes. Nevertheless, success was rare. Referring to one young boy, "the world does not appear to the patient as filled with the gifts of intelligible light, color, and shape upon awakening from surgery," Zajoc observes. Light and eyes were not enough to grant the patient sight. "The light of day beckoned, but no light of mind replied within the boy's anxious, open eyes."
Zajoc quotes from a study by a Dr. Moreau who observed that while surgery gave the patient the "power to see," "the employment of this power, which as a whole constitutes the act of seeing, still has to be acquired from the beginning." Dr. Moreau concludes, "To give back sight to a congenitally blind person is more the work of an educator than of a surgeon." To which Zajoc adds, "The sober truth remains that vision requires far more than a functioning physical organ. Without an inner light, without a formative visual imagination, we are blind," he explains. That "inner light" -- the light of the mind -- "must flow into and marry with the light of nature to bring forth a world." 
National Right to Life News, March 30, 1993, p. 22.

On November 30, 1991 fierce winds from a freakish dust storm triggered a massive freeway pileup along Interstate 5 near Coalinga, California. At least 14 people died and dozens more were injured as topsoil whipped by 50 mile-per-hour winds reduced visibility to zero. The afternoon holocaust left a three-mile trail of twisted and burning vehicles, some stacked on top of one another 100 yards off the side of the freeway. Unable to see their way, dozens of motorists drove blindly ahead into disaster.   
Today in the Word, August 16, 1992.

The famous agnostic Thomas Huxley was once lovingly confronted by a very sincere Christian. This believer stressed to Huxley that he was not in any way impugning Huxley's sincerity. Nevertheless, might it not be possible that mentally the great scientist was color blind? That is, some people cannot see traces of green where other people cannot help but see it. Could it be that this was Huxley's problem--that he was simply blind to truth that was quite evident to others? Huxley, being a man of integrity, admitted that this was possible, and added that if it were, he himself, of course, could not know or recognize it. 
 Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 8, p. 708.

For 51 years Bob Edens was blind. He couldn't see a thing. His world was a black hall of sounds and smells. He felt his way through five decades of darkness. And then, he could see. A skilled surgeon performed a complicated operation and, for the first time, Bob Edens had sight. He found it overwhelming. "I never would have dreamed that yellow is so...yellow," he exclaimed. "I don't have the words. I am amazed by yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can't believe red. I can see the shape of the moon--and I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapor trail. And of course, sunrises and sunsets. And at night I look at the stars in the sky and the flashing light. You could never know how wonderful everything is." 
Max Lucado, God Came Near, Multnomah Press, 1987, p. 13.

At the very time Stalin was liquidating millions, the Rev. Hewlett Johnson of Canterbury spoke of him as bringing in the kingdom of Christ.
Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Eighties, Harper and Row, 1983.

The captain of the Titanic refused to believe the ship was in trouble till water was ankle deep in the mail room. Only then was it apparent the multi-layered hull had been pierced and the unsinkable ship was going to sink. Ships that could have arrived before the great ocean liner went down weren't summoned until it was too late. 
Leadership, Vol. X, No.3, Summer, 1989, p. 27.