A profound and abiding sense of joy is the hallmark of a person whose faith in Jesus is authentic. This does not mean some sort of superficial and momentary happiness. Nor does it imply an attitude of escapism from the presence of pain and suffering in human experience. But it does mean that our trust in God is not shaken in the face of evil. We are always aware of the presence of the Spirit that permeates our minds and hearts with joy. That joy generates strength and hope, courage and peace.
Like Bartimaeus - the blind beggar of the Gospel - our limited vision so often lets us see only our vulnerability and our limitations. Spiritual blindness to the Gospel message often causes us to ignore the responsibility that we each have to become instruments of healing, so that through us the Word-Made-Flesh can lead our society out of its culture of death into a culture of life.
I wonder who was really blind in the Gospel story? Bartimaeus, the beggar? - or the disciples? Certainly not the beggar, for even in his blindness he saw something in Jesus that the disciples could not see. Even before he was cured, he saw clearly the compassion and the mercy of Jesus. The disciples were more concerned with keeping him silent than they were in seeing the compassion of Jesus.
I suppose it can be easy for us to become as blind as the disciples. Recent surveys show that Catholic attitudes about life issues all too often mirror the attitudes of society at large. Many Catholics are pro-choice, many favor the death penalty, and most are too readily apt to talk about solutions to our current problems rather than act with the conviction of the Gospel to do something about them.
Jesus lives with an attitude and style that mixes joy, courage and freedom.... not frivolity, nor an economic vision. His life is a reminder not to let worry be the whole story about life... that we should fear not, fret not ...that we should be passionately involved with the pain of the world.
These are the times we need to recall the image of Jesus and Bartimaeus. These are the times we need to find comfort in the words of Jeremiah: "Shout with joy for Jacob, exult at the head of the nations; proclaim your praise and say: The LORD has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel." Whenever we are brought low by physical or spiritual infirmity, we must believe in resurrection.
These are the times when - like Bartimaeus - we need to cry out:
Lord I want to see:
- I want to see how the prejudice that blinds me to the goodness of people whose skin color or ethnic origin or sexual orientation or vision is different from my own keeps me from embracing them as sisters and brothers who share the fatherhood of God with me.
- I want to see how my complacency allows evil to flourish because I just don't care enough to get involved in standing up and speaking out against it.
- I want to see how my preoccupation with accumulating wealth and enjoying a life of ease distracts me from the demands of justice for the poor and marginalized in our society.
- I want to see how my indifference clutters my mind with so much mental and emotional rubbish that it makes of all political and social life a mass illness. I want to see that without a "housecleaning," I will not be able to see.
Whenever we are confronted by the dark side of our culture and society, we must live with joyous confidence, and so possess the courage and freedom to surprise the world with new acts of love - just like the Master who washes the feet of his disciples, the Samaritan who helps the Jew, the insulted father who forgives and embraces his wayward son, the All Holy One who stoops to lift up a condemned adulteress and restore her wholeness and dignity, and the carpenter-rabbi who restored sight to Bartimaeus.
We walk in the company of the Lord. New life radiates from Him, giving us the power to transform defeat into victory, sorrow into joy, and doubt into joyful hope. To claim that we are "resurrection people" is not just poetic license. It describes the reality of authentic Christian living. We will only enter that reality when, like Bartimaeus, we have reached out in faith, touched the Risen Christ, and proclaimed: "Lord, I want to see" - not as a desperate plea, but as a prayer of joy-filled trust in Him.