Faith warms the heart and enlightens the steps of the disciple
Jericho: a city in the valley of the river Jordan, 10 km north of the Dead Sea, a city with a mild climate and below sea level, “the city of palms” (Dt. 34,3): it is considered the first walled in city of history (8000 BC), its walls fell down in a spectacular way in front of the people of Israel (Jos 6). It is a city well known to Jesus. In the vicinity of Jericho, he is baptised and spends the 40 days of temptation; he speaks of the road down from Jerusalem to Jericho (the road of the Good Samaritan); here he meets the publican Zacchaeus and, before ascending to Jerusalem, performs the miracle of the blind man Bartimaeus (Gospel) in an important context.
The curing of Bartimaeus, the blind man of Jericho, marks a point of arrival and the point of a new departure in the context of Mark’s Gospel. It is the last healing miracle performed by Jesus, as a conclusion of a series of moral teachings. But it is also the point of departure towards Jerusalem, where he will go through the events of his last week on earth, the Holy Week, from his triumphal entry into the city to his passion and resurrection.
Jesus has given important moral teachings which, if observed, renew people from within, through a change of behaviour (metanoia). The moral requirements set by Jesus (see passages from the Gospel of Mark from the previous Sundays) work towards conversion of the heart, causing as a result a personal interior freedom. More than renunciation, it is more accurate to speak of a gift of liberation-purification of the heart in order to discover and follow Christ, the true treasure. It is a question, then, of freedom from selfishness (to renounce self, to take up the cross: 8,32-38); of freedom from emotions (unity and indissolubility of marriage, love and respect for the children: 10,2-16); of freedom from possessions (the danger of riches: 10,17-31); of freedom from power (authority as service: 10,35-45)…
In each of these areas the disciple lives the perpetual tension between the prevailing worldly mentality and Christ’s demand. Often this tension becomes clash and conflict between the darkness of evil and the light of the Gospel. At this point in time, before Christ’ going up to Jerusalem, Mark sets, in an emblematic way, the healing of the blind man of Jericho (Gospel), which he describes as a miraculous event and, at the same time, rich in symbolism.
A blind man “was sitting by the road begging” (v. 46): he was stationary, a beggar, dependant on other people… As Jesus approached, he becomes a new man: he cries out to Jesus twice about his situation and implores his mercy (47-48). He comes upon the group of the disciples who, in the beginning are a hindrance to him but then encourage him to go to Jesus who was calling him (v. 49). The blind man casts away his cloak – symbol of his security up to then -, springs on his feet, speaks to Jesus, receives from him faith and sight and begins to follow him “in the way” (v. 52). The road going up to Jerusalem is hard, especially for the events that are awaiting Jesus in that Week, but the disciple, now enlightened, knows that the Master is preceding him and is drawing him after himself.
“Bartimaeus is the image of the disciple who finally opens his eyes to the light of the Master and decides to follow him along the way. Jesus’ call does not directly reach the blind man; there is someone in charge of transmitting it. These mediators represent the true followers of Christ, sensitive to the cry of those who seek the light. They are those who dedicate most of their time to listen to the problems of the brothers and sisters in difficulty, who always have words of encouragement, who show to the blinds the way that leads to the Master” (F. Armellini). This is the missionary responsibility of the communities of believers: transformed by the love of God, it is their task to avoid any hindrance and, by their witness and word, to facilitate the journey of those who seek the light and the truth of Jesus.
In this search for the Lord, Baptism is a point of arrival but, at the same time, it’s the foundation of the missionary commitment of every Christian: the blind man, now enlightened, is fascinated by Christ and becomes a witness to all of the joy to follow in his footsteps. (*) The missionary commitment of every baptised person knows no boundaries: it is directed to the situations close at hand but it also reaches the ends of the world.
The Pope’s words
(*) “The mission arises from the heart: when one stops to pray before a Crucifix with his glance fixed on that pierced side, he cannot but experience within himself the joy of knowing that he is loved and the desire to love and to make himself an instrument of mercy and reconciliation.... The mission always initiates from a heart transformed by the love of God, as the countless stories of saints and martyrs witness, who in different ways have spent their life at the service of the Gospel”.
Angelus on World Mission Sunday, 2006
In the missionaries’ footsteps
- 25/10: Conclusion of the II African Synod in Rome (2009).
- 27/10: Anniversary of the meeting of the Christian churches’ representatives, of the ecclesial communities and world Religions, summoned for the first time to Assisi by Pope John Paul II for a Day of Prayer for Peace (1986).
- 28/10: In Lima (Peru) there is the celebration of the feast of Señor de los Milagros, a miraculous image of the Crucifix, drawn on a wall by an African slave (about 1651), much venerated by throngs of people.
- 28/10: SS. Simon (the zealot) and Judas Thaddeus, apostles.
- 29/10: Anniversary of the Message Africae Terrarum of Paul VI to Africa (1967).
- 30/10: Bl. Alexius Zaryckyj (1912-1963), a Catholic-Greek priest from Ukraine who died as a martyr in the concentration camp of Dolinka, in Kazakhstan.
A cura di: P. Romeo Ballan – Missionari Comboniani (Verona)
Sito Web: www.euntes.net “Parola per la Missione”