Whether our inner vision and senses are sharp or blunt makes all the difference to our lives in a multitude of ways. Think of some of the amazing software inventions of the last years. There is the prayer, “Be thou my vision, O lord of my heart, be all else but naught to me, save that thou art; Be thou may best thought in the day and the night, both waking and sleeping, they presence my light” (Hundred Hymns for Today #10).
In our Gospel reading today we have blind Bartimaeus, a beggar at Jericho, receiving his sight through his faith in Jesus. Sight here is not only physical, but spiritual — for, Bartimaeus calls Jesus “Son of David”. It is one of the only times that Jesus is called this in this Gospel of Mark. Bartimaeus, begging at the roadside, must have been thinking about Jesus a lot to have such a remarkable statement rise to his lips. Bartimaeus already had deep spiritual insight.
OUR VISION SHOULD BE ALIVE AND SHARP
Sight operates at various levels. Like Bartimaeus, we could suffer – or benefit — if we can see and recognize signals of hidden danger or of hidden opportunity. A triangular fin above the water may indicate the hidden danger of a shark below. Certain kinds of quartz above ground may indicate gold below the surface. We have to have eyes to see.
CALLING, HEARING AND ANSWERING
There are other senses at play in this reading. We read today that Bartimaeus kept calling out to Jesus louder and louder, despite criticism, til Jesus heard and answered. When I was in KwaZulu, a local and very old and beautiful forest was called Babanango Forest. The name arose from a child being lost in that very dense forest. In her terror, she called out to her father – “Baba, Baba” – or “Daddy, Daddy”. The reply came from the searching father, “Nango” – “here I am”. She called out for help, her father answered, and she was rescued. God is like that – when we call, God hears, and responds. If our “faith sense” is alive, if our ears are attuned to God’s voice, then we are rescued.
FAITH IS THE EAR OF THE SPIRIT THAT OPENS US TO GOD’S RESCUE
Blind Bartimaeus is notable because he is one of the few people who are named in the Gospel of Mark, outside the circle of the disciples. Furthermore, this recognition of Jesus as the Son of David from Bartimaeus raised the curtain for Jesus’ triumphant entry to Jerusalem, and Passion Week. All this must be relevant to Jesus telling Bartimaeus that his faith “has already” healed him. “As in verse 34, the faith in question is confident trust in God and in the power of Jesus to heal” (Vincent Taylor, Mark 1959 page 449).
God crosses over our boundaries to rescue us — can we to that too? Can we hear God’s call to us, and then cross boundaries to at least one other person, to take God’s answer to their cry of pain or terror?
SENSING GOD IN OUR EXPERIENCES
We call to God – “Baba, Baba!” Yet there is the question as to whether we have our senses attuned to hear the response of God– “Nango, Nango – here I am!” Our sight needs to be attuned to see God present and in action around us. If our “faith sense” is absent, we can find ourselves in danger. If our faith sense is alive and well, we can be rescued. Here is a moving song written by Jeremy Geffen and sung by Susan Osborn, named “O Mystery”. There is a recording of it in “Missa Gaia/ Earth Mass” by the Paul Winter Consort. It is similar to the hymn verse with which I started, “Be thou my vision.” As you listen to the words of Susan Osborn’s song, may it be your ringing call upon God, to hear, see, and sense the grace of God in your circumstances.
And it lives in the seed of a tree as it grows.
You can hear it if you listen to the wind as it blows
It’s there in the river as it flows into the sea.
It’s the sound, in the soul of a man becoming free.
And it lives in the laughter of children at play,
And in the blazing sun, that gives light to the day.
It moves the planets and the stars in the sky.
It’s been the mover of mountains, since the beginning of time.
Oh Mystery, you are alive, I feel you all around.
You are the fire in my heart.
You are the holy sound.
You are all of life. It is to you I sing.
Oh, grant that I may feel you, always in everything.
And it lives in the waves as they crash upon the beach.
And in the Gods that man has tried to reach.
I feel it in the love we live for so much.
And I know it in your smile my friend, when our hearts do touch.
And when I listen deep inside, I feel best of all,
Like a moon that’s glowing white, I listen to your call.
And I know you will guide me, I feel like the tide,
Rushing to the ocean of my heart that opens wide.
Oh Mystery, you are alive…