This Gospel is a bit deceptive for me.
At first, I contemplated how relatable Bartimaeus’ healing is. Second, I reconsidered the active characters around Bartimaeus and noted how they either contributed to or hindered his healing. But then I think I got stuck.
It wasn't until I shared my thoughts and feelings with my friends that the most obvious perspective I really should be paying attention to is that of Jesus.
You see, there's this pattern in Mark's Gospel: Jesus is walking with a crowd, someone calls for him, he listens and calls after them, Jesus asks what they want, and he confirms that their faith has saved them.
Ignatian spirituality provides a way for me to engage the vividness of my imagination to this story and mystery of God working in and through all situations.
I consider Bartimaeus, who “sat by the roadside begging.” He had only a cloak to separate him from the filthy road. I wonder if he felt the stares of people as they passed him by. Or maybe he felt their avoidance. What must have gone through his mind and heart as he sat there?
Although I am neither blind nor in need of begging for survival, I can understand both a hyper-invisibility of people like me in the church AND a hyper-visibility when it comes to efforts to diversify. I've even managed to internalize my own inferiority complex as a woman in a Church I call home. Half the time I don't feel seen. And other times, the silencing from the crowd is more damaging. Like Bartimaeus being rebuked and silenced by the crowd, I feel bruised and broken in a patriarchal experience of community and power.
Next I consider that very perspective of the crowd, bothered by Bartimeus, maybe annoyed or even threatened by his presence in some unconscious way...
I ask myself these questions: Am I one in the crowd ready to rebuke, ignore, or even shush Bartimaeus? Do I tell others to be silent in the face of their pain and suffering? Am I an obstacle to my neighbor’s healing because I am embarrassed by their otherness? Unwilling to speak up for what will rock the boat. Sometimes actively engaged in de-valuing people’s dignity by not listening, not paying attention, quieting the voices on the margins in order for our experience of Jesus to fit my reality?
I look at our communities -- so fractured now. How many reports of sex abuse do I need to hear until I, too, leave this church in the fullness of faith that wholeness is what Jesus can give us? How many times must I endure being cast aside when other church leaders, ministers, organizers, and coordinators are seen as more acceptable because they were born as biologically male?
This contemplation often gets me stuck.
Until I remember to listen to Jesus, follow Jesus and stay close so as to mimic his behavior. I look for the grace in this Gospel and consider how God invites me ever so closely…
Jesus was leaving Jericho, a common stopping place on a pilgrim’s way to Jerusalem. Jesus hears Bartimaeus, stops and calls for Bartimaeus. Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants him to do, then he listens. Jesus confirms his faith, encourages him to go on, and receives him as a friend.
I see how powerful Jesus’ simple actions offer me peace. If I apply this formula to my life, I am invited to consider a few things:
1. Jesus is moving. Maybe I should be, too. Moving to God's kin-dom of peace, justice, compassion, love.
2. When I speak up and continue to be persistent, Jesus hears me, especially when others try to silence me or conveniently ignore me.
3. Not only does Jesus hear me, he reminds me to take courage and calls me to take my place and be included among his followers.
4. Not only does he include me to do His work of building up the kin-dom of love and justice, but he asks me what I want.
5. What is it exactly that I want? This is where I need to spend time confiding in Jesus.
6. I need to remind myself of Jesus’ confidence in me. Because when I know that, I can truly be free, let go of my doubts from my past and follow His ways.
And the question still remains: Am I ready to receive Jesus’ listening ear, gazing eye, deep and real question and friendship?
I hope so.
Jocelyn A. Sideco
Jocelyn is a retreat leader and spiritual director in the tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola. A graduate of 3 Jesuit Schools, formerly and currently employed at 3 Jesuit colleges, 1 Jesuit High School, 1 Jesuit Province, and 2 Jesuit Retreat Centers. Her pilgrim heart and temperament led her to minister to people in New Orleans and the surrounding area immediately after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. She co-founded a relief non-profit retreat experience called Contemplatives in Action (which has since closed).
Jocelyn is an active networker within Jesuit, Ignatian and Ecumenical circles. She serves best when she is able to create a space for individuals and communities to consider their call, their mission, and respond joyfully to the needs of a broken world. She is available for mission-centered, non-profit organizational coaching and consulting.