Have you heard some Gospel passages so many times that you are tempted to wonder if there is anything that can bring them to life again?
Perhaps our boredom with Scripture comes from only understanding its literal meaning? The literal sense of any piece of Scripture is simply what the author intended to be understood as he wrote the words, but there are other ways of reading Sacred Scripture, such as reading it in the spiritual sense.
According to the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the spiritual sense of Scripture is “the meaning expressed by the biblical texts when read under the influence of the Holy Spirit, in the context of the paschal mystery of Christ and of the new life which flows from it.”
The Gospel passage for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time is the story of Bartimaeus. It is the story of a blind beggar who was sitting along the steep road from Jericho up to the Holy City, Jerusalem.
If we understand the literal sense of this passage, we will see it is the story of a blind man who hears that Our Lord is nearby. Remembering what he heard about all the miraculous healings wrought by the Lord, Bartimaeus calls out to him, using the messianic title, “Son of David.”
When Our Lord hears the words “Son of David,” he realizes this man believes him to be the Messiah, and he calls Bartimaeus forward. After a brief exchange between the two, in which Bartimaeus asks for his sight, Our Lord restores his sight, saying it is the man’s faith that made him well.
Looking into the soul
The beautiful “facts” of this passage speak for themselves and reveal a God who heals those with simple faith in him. This, in itself, should be a great nourishment for the soul, but if we search for the spiritual sense of this passage, perhaps we will recover the Gospel’s freshness.
In most of Sacred Scripture, physical deformity and sickness are used to reveal a soul burdened by a sinful life. Perhaps this is true of Bartimaeus. A blind man with a sin-sick soul sits by the road and hears the man passing by who can forgive him his sins, and so he cries out, “Son of David, have pity on me.”
He begs for pity because he desires forgiveness of his sins. If he only wanted his sight restored, wouldn’t he have just requested that? Instead, he wants the Lord’s pity, or mercy. He wants more than his sight; he wants more than a scrap of bread or a little gold coin.
Bartimaeus, wants to know the mercy and love of Jesus. Bartimaeus likely believes in this inner connection between his sin and his blindness, and when the Lord asks what he might do for him, he replies, “Master, I want to see.”
This was not, however, merely the request that earthly light would pour into his eyes, rather it was the request that Christ, the Light of the World, in front of whom he now stood, would flood into his soul, in which Bartimaeus would see the depths of his sin and receive pardon and peace. In seeing his sin forgiven, his eyes were made whole.
Hopefully, our look into the soul of this blind beggar can open our eyes to the perennial freshness of Scripture.
Deacon Adam Hamness is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary for the Diocese of Crookston. His home parish is Blessed Sacrament in Greenbush, Minn., and his teaching parish is St. John the Baptist in Jordan.
Sunday, Oct. 28
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 10: 46-52
Reflect on a time when your eyes were “opened” by a Gospel passage. What did it help you see?