October 25, 2009
The Blind Can See God
The story is told about a stonecutter. His job is hard. Every day, with his pickaxe, he goes to the riverbank, and does his backbreaking job of cutting stones under the heat of the sun. He complained that the sun is too hot. He wished he was powerful as the sun, and that would make him happy. God heard his prayer, and he became the sun. But his happiness was soon over when a thick cloud covered the sun and its rays could not penetrate through it. He thought the cloud was more powerful than the sun. So, he wanted to be a cloud and his wish was granted. He became a cloud, so huge and heavy, that soon it poured down a mighty rain on the earth, causing torrents of water flow through fields and rivers. He was happy with all these powers. Its strong current washed away everything in its path – except that one big rock by the river. It just would not move. So he thought the rock was more powerful. He wanted to be a big rock, and again it was granted. The rock could not be moved by any power on earth – not by the floods, hurricanes, earthquakes or the heat of the sun. He was happy for a moment. But the next morning, he saw a man coming with a pickaxe on his shoulder. Then the man began chipping away the rock with his pickaxe. His happiness vanished at once. He did not want to be rock anymore. The stonecutter, after all, is more powerful than anything else in this world. Now he is back as a stonecutter. The work is hard, and the sun is hot, but now he is happy.
For a long time, the stonecutter was blind. Finally he saw the great value of his job and his power and sublime dignity. As we always say, “The grass is greener at the other side of the fence.” Our eyes may be healthy, but we may remain blind to so many things. We often fail to appreciate the many blessings right before our eyes. Many times we take these blessings for granted, until one day, they are gone. Only then do we begin to see their great value, but it is all too late.
This Sunday, the Gospel gives us the story of a blind man, named Bartimaeus. People looked down on him simply because he was blind. It is the belief of many Jews that sickness and physical defects, such as blindness, are punishments due to sin. This must be the reason why he was called Bartimaeus. Literally, it comes from the Aramaic which means “son of defilement” (tame’). But in the Greek version, this name means “son of honor” (timÉ). By giving us the name Bartimaeus with its double meaning, the Gospel writer, St. Mark, must be saying that here is someone who is supposed to be a man of honor and dignity(timÉ) but living in a state of dishonor and shame (tame’).
But this was not for long. Bartimaeus had a powerful sense of perception and sensitivity. He heard the coming of Jesus from afar. He also had powerful spiritual sight. Despite being blind, he had better sight than the disciples and the rest of the crowd. He shouted: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The Messiah, according to the prophets, will come from the royal lineage of King David; hence he is known as Son of David. Even before encountering Jesus, Bartimaeus already “saw” him as the true Messiah. After this brief encounter with the Lord, he not only received his sight, but most importantly, he regained his great dignity as a child of God and follower of Jesus.
The story of Bartimaeus is the story of each one of us. God created us to be His sons and daughters of honor and dignity. But because of our sins, many of us are living as sons and daughters of dishonor and shame. It is our sins of pride and egoism that usually make us blind. We are blind to the presence of God because we are consumed by the pursuit of our selfish ambitions. We fail to see and appreciate the many blessings we have because we want and crave for more. We have voracious appetite for material things and our thirst for power and praise is unquenchable. We refuse to see the goodness and giftedness of others because in our pride and arrogance we think we are the best, the brightest and the first. We choose to ignore our own sins and weaknesses because we have grown used to our hypocrisy and lies. We cannot see and read the signs of the times because we believe the world revolves around us. We live in complete darkness because of our pride and selfishness.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the apparitions of the Lord and the Blessed Mother were to innocent children and simple folks, like the uneducated farmer, Juan Diego. It is the humble and the little ones that see God readily. Jesus prayed, “I thank you, Father, for what you have hidden from the wise and the learned you have revealed to the merest children!” (Mt 11:25).
Let the Gospel today open our eyes. It is a call to repentance and conversion. For a long time, many of us are living in dishonor and shame due to our pride, selfishness and arrogance. This is now the time for us to throw aside our cloaks of false comforts and delusions, spring up with honor and dignity, and come to Jesus who is meek and humble of heart. Let the prayer of Bartimaeus be ours: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! I want to see!”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002