There is nothing more destructive of one’s happiness, fulfillment and meaning in life than living an aimless life. Without direction, there is no motivation to live, to carry on in life. Of course, we also need proper directions, since choosing the wrong road will also lead us to destruction even though we may have goals in life. Nevertheless, those who seek life by choosing the wrong paths will one day also be lost. Hence, whether we have no direction or are misdirected in life, we are just like the Blind Beggar, Bartimaeus, sitting at the side of the road waiting in hope that we will be able to see the road which we should take again. But how can we ever recover our direction in life if we have lost it or are now without it? Do we simply drift on and wait passively, hoping that things would change? This is certainly not the way of faith but of despair. Indeed, if we truly want God to enlighten us, then we must co-operate in this journey of faith. How?
Firstly, we are told that while waiting, Bartimaeus kept his ears open. Now, it is certainly true that even when we are lost, God never fully abandons us. We know that even if we have lost our physical eyesight, nature will compensate our blindness by strengthening the other faculties that are still working. In the same way too, if we have lost our direction in life and we cannot see where we are going, then we need to listen to the prompting of the Spirit who speaks to us. Like Bartimaeus, when we have lost our own vision, then we must be ready to listen to the guidance of others and see whether they can help us to find our vision. And the guidance can come from all directions. Indeed, this was what Blind Bartimaeus did. Instead of simply sitting down, he must have been extremely attentive to who were passing by. He must have heard countless numbers of people sharing their visions. But when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, the one that people had talked about, he called out to Him.
Secondly, after listening and discerning, we must be like blind Bartimaeus to call out for help. We must be humble enough to seek for assistance. The problem with many of us is that even if we have listened and the Holy Spirit has enlightened us to a certain extent regarding our predicament, yet many of us are too proud to seek for help. We prefer to resolve the problem by ourselves. We are not willing to be led, counseled and inspired by others. Humility therefore is the necessary element of recovering our direction in life. Without humility, we cannot expect to learn or be enlightened in the truth. Truly, if Blind Bartimaeus had simply sat quietly by the roadside, nobody would have noticed that he was there. Isn’t it true for many of us? We complain that God does not care and our friends do not care, when it is because no one knows we are in trouble or need assistance, since we are too proud to cry out for help.
Thirdly, we must reckon that this humility which we speak about is a humility that will be tested by the obstacles we face in the process of responding. For Blind Bartimaeus, when he tried to seek for help, he was humiliated by the crowd. They scolded him and told him to keep quiet. They must have given Bartimaeus the feeling that he was a nobody, a goner. Jesus certainly would not have time for him. He was not important to society. They had given up hope on him. But we are told that in spite of such negative support and discouragement, Blind Bartimaeus shouted all the louder. Yes, the humility of Bartimaeus and his sincerity in seeking the true meaning in life gave him the courage and perseverance to use every means to seek for true liberation.
We, too, like Blind Bartimaeus, must not allow wet blankets to kill our enthusiasm and efforts in trying to find our direction and meaning in life. Once we have heard and discerned what we want to do, we must pluck up our courage and fight on the battle. Once we are clear of our goals and what we want in life, the obstacles, be they personal or from external forces, should not overwhelm us and kill our vision of life. Indeed, Jesus took notice. Just as Jesus called Bartimaeus to Him because of his perseverance, determination and humility, He will also call us to Him if we remain firm in our beliefs and convictions. Then again if we open our ears wide enough, then we will know that God has sent people into our lives to encourage us. Indeed, there were some who said to Bartimaeus, “Courage, get up, he is calling you.” He too is saying these words to us through our friends, or when we read the Word of God, “Courage.”
Fourthly, in our journey of growth, if we take courage, then we must get up as the gospel tells us and throw off our cloak just as Blind Bartimaeus did. The evangelist told us that he threw off his cloak, “jumped up and went to Jesus.” Yes, Blind Bartimaeus let go of the very thing that he had hung on to. It was an act of faith, a leap of faith indeed. It was this cloak that had burdened him. It was this cloak that he could not give up, that cloak which seemed to have offered him protection but actually had blinded him. We too must ask ourselves what is this cloak that we need to get rid of? Is it the cloak of sin, the cloak of fear, the cloak of pride, the cloak of insecurity, the cloak of narrow-mindedness, the cloak of attachment? Whatever it is, if we search deep enough into ourselves, we know that it is because we are hanging to our cloaks that we are not liberated. We do not have the courage to let go for fear that we might be worse off.
But faith requires us to let go. Jesus requires us to get rid of the cloak that hinders us from seeing life rightly. But the moment we take the leap of faith and trust in Jesus and take the challenge, then everything comes to perspective and clarity. This was what happened to Blind Bartimaeus. He was able to see again. But we must note what Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.” And the evangelist wrote, “And immediately his sight returned.” Yes, it is the courage to let go of our past and sin; and the faith to trust in Jesus that allows us to see life clearly again. Without faith in Jesus and the promises He holds for us, we cannot see like the Blind Man. It is only a man of faith that can see the glory of God in creation, as Sirach in the first reading so beautifully illustrated. Only faith can help us to see God’s design in our lives.
Finally, with sight comes direction and life. Yes, we are told that Blind Bartimaeus did not simply regain his sight, but he followed Jesus along the road. Once he knew Jesus, he too understood his direction in life. That is why we know that Blind Bartimaeus was truly healed. He became a true disciple of Jesus. Hence, true healing is not physical healing. That is why some people who have been healed physically again and again are not happy because their healing is superficial, skin deep only. It only brings temporal relief but no real lasting life and happiness. But with faith, we will regain our true sight of life, which is manifested by our commitment to Jesus and our personal transformation as happened in the case of Blind Bartimaeus. If a man claims to be healed of his sight, be it physical or spiritual, and yet does not manifest any transformation, then it is quite certain that no real enlightenment has taken place because the act of faith has not yet been made. Once the act of faith is made, then we can see ourselves entering into a new world, the world of God, the world of wisdom, the world of marvels, as the author tells us in the first reading.
But in the final analysis, all these opportunities that knock at the door of our hearts would be of no avail if we do not take the courage to get up to open our closed doors and with faith take up the challenge of looking at life from the perspective of the gospel. Because if we do, we can be certain that we will walk a new path and our lives will be rich and meaningful and full of gratitude and wonder, since in Christ we find the way, the truth and the life.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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