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We have all seen the scene in romantic comedies when one or other member of the cute leading pair realizes what the audience long ago saw coming: They are meant for each other.
At that point, the lover throws caution to the wind: He shouts his love in an embarrassingly public way, she sings in the rain hardly noticing that she’s getting wet. Suddenly, all of the reserve that held them back from each other is gone.
Bartimaeus is like that this Sunday, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B).
Bartimaeus is the blind beggar who was sitting by the side of the road when he heard that Jesus was passing by.
He began calling out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!” The Gospel tells us that “many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” We can picture the scene. The great religious figure is passing by, so his followers want to enforce a little decorum on the streets.
It didn’t work, though. “He kept calling out all the more, ‘Son of David, have pity on me!’”
There are many lessons to take from Bartimaeus. In our day when religious freedom is under attack as never before, one basic lesson is this: No one can take away your right to call out to God. Maybe your faith makes other people uncomfortable. Maybe they would rather you keep your faith private. Too bad. We have a right to express our faith and act according to it.
But another, more personal meaning is this: Jesus always answers those who “shamelessly” call out for him.
What makes Bartimaeus great is his faith. That’s what Jesus praises him for, and that’s what saves him in the end. His example is a good test for our faith. What would we do if Jesus was passing by and his handlers were hushing us up? Would we be polite and quiet — or would we make a small scene in our desire to see our Savior?
Bartimaeus knew how deeply he needed Jesus, so he made a small scene. We need to understand how great our need for Jesus is, too.
The Jewish people in the first reading discovered this. Jeremiah is the great prophet of the Lamentations of Israel. His writings give us a sense of the utter darkness and sorrow the people of Israel felt when they were separated from their homeland.
In today’s reading, Jeremiah shares the joy of the people as they come back. “They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them … for I am a father to Israel.”
Only by being torn from their homeland did the Israelites discover how much they missed Jerusalem, and how happy it was to return.
When we are torn from God by sin, we should have the same feeling, and we can experience the same joy upon returning.
As the second reading points out, we have a way back — in Jesus. And it should make us just as delighted as the Israelites returning from exile. As delighted as Bartimaeus.
Way more delighted than the couple in a romantic comedy.