Jeremiah 31:7-9, Hebrews 5:1-6, Mark 10:46-52
An encounter is a meeting we have with someone. It is one on one interaction or experience we have with any person. When we encounter Jesus significant things happen.
What happens in today’s gospel is what truly happens when we have a true encounter with the Lord.
When we talk of an encounter here it must not necessarily mean when we see Jesus physically. We can encounter Jesus through the Sacred word, through the Holy Eucharist, through prayers, in the poor and our day to day spiritual program.
In every spiritual activity, there is a communication between the physical and spiritual. When we encounter the spiritual, significant change must happen.
We may not see this with our physical eyes but truly great things happen. The encounter between Jesus and Bartimaeus is a replica of the things that happen when we truly encounter Jesus.
Before the conversion of Saint Augustine, He was seeking what He calls the Truth about life. Many questions disturbed his mind. Saint Augustine grew up as a Christian raised by a virtuous mother Saint Monica but later dwindled.
Saint Augustine wandered away from God and lived a worldly life. His mother spent years praying for His change. What transformed saint Augustine was his encounter with Saint Ambrose.
Saint Ambrose is well known for His oratorical skill. Saint Augustine fell in love with the oratory of Saint Ambrose. The more Saint Augustine tries to listen to Ambrose, the more he began to have a second thought about His life. His encounter with Saint Ambrose changed Augustine.
In the year 386. He had a miraculous conversion when he had the voices of children singing”Tolle lege! Tolle lege!” or, “Take up and read! Take up and read!” He realized that this may be a call from God. Augustine picked up a bible and read the first passage he saw. The passage is Romans 13:13-34:
Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. And make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.
Augustine said that from that passage alone, he did not need to read any further for “all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.” On Easter Vigil the following year — on April 24, 387 — Ambrose baptized Augustine in Milan.
The journey of sainthood begins from his encounter with saint Ambrose.
Therefore, there was a change in his life. When we encounter the true presence of God in our life, our lives will change. An encounter with Jesus is the secret of change, the source of healing, the avenue for mercy etc.
What We Have to Know About Jesus.
In one of my apostolic works as a seminarian, A young boy approached me after the usual stations of the cross and asked me something that truly made me reflect on the personality of Jesus.
The young boy came to me and said, “semi how could Jesus forgive the crucified thief on the cross instead of telling him that what he did was not good.
He did not correct him, he did not judge him, he just forgave him, nawaa for Jesus” I smiled and gradually explained to him what happened.
But that kept me thinking about the personality of Jesus. When we know who Jesus is, we will always have the hunger to seek Him with our hearts.
An encounter with Jesus is an encounter with the mercy of God. This insight can be gotten from the first reading. In the first reading, God reveals Himself to the people of Israel as their saviour and promises to bring them back.
He assured them that though the people had left in tears, He will comfort them again and be a guide to them. In the second reading, Jesus is revealed as the eternal high priest who always stands as the mediator between us and God. He offers himself for the sake of our salvation.
This is the highest act of love shown to us by Jesus. If He can do this, there is nothing He would not do for us. An encounter with Jesus is a life changer.
The journey of Jesus to Jerusalem comes to an end today with His encounter with Bartimaeus.
Mark tells us that when Jesus left the city of Jericho, a large crowd followed Him.
Along the way, Bartimaeus, meaning son of Timaeus, was sitting at the roadside and when he heard that Jesus was coming he began to shout “Jesus son of David, have mercy on me”. Jesus truly had mercy on Him.
There are many lessons we need to grab in this encounter. Let us take this bit by bit in our encounter with Jesus.
From A Former Life to A New Life
In 2 Corinthians 2:17, St Paul says “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come.
Before Bartimaeus meets Jesus, He is only a roadside beggar which was a common sight at that time. After he meets Jesus, His life transforms.
Before Bartimaeus meets Jesus, He is blind and could not see but after His encounter with Jesus, He begins to see. The surest way to solve our spiritual blindness is through a deep and true encounter with the Lord.
The spiritually blind are those who remain in darkness. They are the people who do not have time for God but have enough time for the world. It is when we are wallowing in sin to the extent we do not need God again in our lives. This is when we bluntly refuse to accept salvation.
When Bartimaeus heard about Jesus, he began to shout Jesus son of David, have mercy on me. In Bartimaeus, we see the hunger in Him to be made well.
When we hear about Jesus, what do we do? Bartimaeus hears about Jesus and begins to seek a change of life. But when we hear about Jesus, we turn our back to Him and continue to live the way we want.
When we encounter Jesus, he will surely heal our spiritual blindness. We need a true encounter with the Lord. When we encounter Jesus, We will change from our former life to new life.
An Encounter With Mercy
An encounter with Jesus is an encounter with Mercy. Bartimaeus must have heard many things about Jesus. Bartimaeus had heard of Jesus’ reputation as a healer. He must have heard about the miracles of Jesus.
Therefore, When Bartimaeus encountered Jesus today, as a beggar one would expect him to seek money, food, and other material acquisitions. But he only prayed and sought for the mercy of God. Jesus truly showed Him mercy.
This is what we need. We need the mercy of God, especially at this time. The mercy of God is so great. Always approach the confessional. When we encounter Him there, we will surely encounter mercy and salvation from our sins.
This is what sets the crucified thief apart from the other one. The crucified thief was seeking eternal life and mercy, while the other person was saying that Jesus needs to save himself and save them. Then the one who asked for mercy was shown mercy.
When we seek His mercy, we shall surely find mercy. In Jeremiah 29:13, God promises “when you seek me wholeheartedly, you will surely find me. Therefore, Jesus cannot but be merciful. An encounter with Him is an encounter with mercy.
Encounter with Salvation.
When we encounter Jesus, we encounter salvation. When we truly encounter Jesus, we encounter the One who is ready to rescue us from slavery and suffering.
So, when Bartimaeus discovered that Jesus was coming by, He shouted “Jesus son of David have mercy on me”. One would ask “Is Jesus a son of David? What brought about such a title. Let us take it in a gradual style.
1. Remember that Jesus is already entering Jerusalem. The encounter today is a revelation to the people of who Jesus is.
Then Jesus uses His encounter with Bartimaeus, to let the people know that he is the source of salvation. He is the one who is going to save us from spiritual blindness. So the title is messianic (cf. Isa 11:1, 10; Jer 23:5-6; Ezek 34:23-24).
2. Jesus is descended from David on both His mother Mary’s side (Luke 3:23–38) and His adopted father Joseph’s side (Matthew 1:1–16). But comes from the lineage of David. So, Jesus is not David’s literal son.
We do not forget that David lived a thousand years before the birth of Jesus. So, the title “Son of David ” as Jesus used refers to the promise God made David that he would have an heir who would reign over Israel forever (2 Samuel 7:12–16).
3. God also promises to “raise for David a righteous Branch,” the Messiah, who will rescue Israel from her enemies (Jeremiah 23:5–6). So, when Bartimaeus shouts “Son of David, he is saying to Jesus, “I believe you are the one sent to rescue me”.
He reveals Jesus as the source of salvation that God promised the people long ago. It is good to note that after Bartimaeus calls Jesus the Son of David, Jesus then enters Jerusalem like a king (Mark 11:1–10). Therefore, this encounter reveals Jesus as one who will save us and rescue us from the slavery of sin.
A Healing Encounter
There are times when we find ourselves in trouble and it looks as if all hope is lost. We have many problems that we find ourselves in.
Many people are undergoing emotional trauma, sickness and bitterness, all these are shown today, in Bartimaeus’ encounter with Jesus.
1. In His journey of healing, Bartimaeus encountered people who were trying to close his mouth but he continues to shout
One spectacular thing about this group of people is that they were also following Jesus around.
In the same way, some people do not like us to see the light of the day. They can go many miles to see that we don’t succeed.
Like this group that was with Jesus today, our own will also come from people who detest our goodness. They will try to make us stop whatever good thing we do.
In today’s gospel, despite their efforts to shout him down, Jesus calls Bartimaeus to Him. Therefore, as we pass through such kinds of troubles, never relent in being close to Jesus, His grace is enough and sufficient.
2.Immediately Jesus calls Him, Bartimaeus throws away His beggar’s cloak. The beggar’s cloak in the land of the Israelites is like an identity card that distinguishes him from other people. Beggar’s at that time wear a particular cloak to show who they are. So, when people see it, they will say “ He is a beggar”.
Therefore, by throwing the cloak away, Batimaeaus threw away His former life, His past, His conditions, bitterness and problem, etc. To encounter Jesus, we have to throw away our former cloak and accept the grace and strength Jesus gives.
3.Bartimaeus tells Jesus “Lord that I may see”. Therefore, Bartimaeus encounter with Jesus opened His eyes.
The point here is that Jesus longs to make us see. He desires that our spiritual eyes be at alert. Therefore the healing of body and soul comes from the Lord.
1. What sets Bartimaeus apart today is His faith. So many things would have made him lose faith in Jesus. First is that Jesus was not listening to Bartimaeus when he was calling.
Secondly, the crowd was trying to shut his mouth up, But Bartimaeus persisted until Jesus listened to Him.
Therefore, in seeking the presence of Jesus, many things may come in place. In all these let us always keep our faith strong. Bartimaeus teaches us today to seek until we find.
2.. Immediately Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is coming, He begins to shout and ask for mercy. What point do we get here?
Bartimaeus sees an opportunity to be healed, He sees an opportunity for blessing, then He goes for it.
He knows that in the presence of the lord, there is fullness of joy, healing, and restorations.
In essence, we meet Jesus every day in our day to day encounter through the Holy Mass, prayers, through the word, When we visit the Blessed sacrament etc, Jesus stays there in our chapel, waiting for our visit.
Bartimaeus saw Jesus and was shouting, But we have abandoned Jesus and neglected His grace. We do not even have His time. To encounter Jesus is to encounter healing, grace, mercy and forgiveness of sins.
3.There is something that amazed me today about Bartimaeus. You know this man has been a beggar and in dire need of money.
When he encountered Jesus and the mighty crowd that was following Him, I was surprised that Bartimaeus could not ask for money this time.
This is unlike the man at the beautiful gate in Acts 3:3, who was requesting money from Peter. Bartimaeus met a crowd. For goodness sake, this is the best time to make a huge amount of money.
What he needed to do is to open his mouth and shout “Please help me”. Many will be out to put enough in his pocket. But at this time, the beggar refused to beg. He knows he needed something different and higher which is a spiritual encounter with Jesus.
This man teaches us that it is not every time that money will be the first thing to seek. There are times we need a divine and spiritual encounter.
Through such an encounter, we can encounter divine healing, graces and strength to undergo even the greatest trials in life.
Bartimaeus knows that his main source of income comes from begging, but at this time, he abandons his source of income to seek something higher.
4. It is faith that made Bartimaeus shout on top of his voice for healing, otherwise, he will not waste such a time shouting.
It is faith that made Him seek Jesus despite not seeing him work miracles before. Also, it is faith that made him throw away his cloak, knowing quite well that with Jesus his past is gone. Even when Jesus tells him to go that he is made well, he did not argue it and he was made well.
At last, Jesus attributes his healing to his faith. Therefore, Divine healing comes through faith. Hebrews 11:6 says that before you come in the presence of God, you must, first of all, believe that he exists and that he can do all things.
Bartimaeus did not say “Let me try God”. He knows and believes that Jesus is able and capable and he goes for what he wants.
To encounter divine healing, we need to do the same. Do not go to God with a double mind. Seek His face, believing also that He is able and capable.
5.Did you discover that the people who were trying to shut Bartimaeus up are the crowd who were following Jesus?
Under normal circumstances, they would have been the people to ask Jesus to heal this man but they become the opposite.
Therefore, do not be surprised when your problem comes from your fellow Christians. They follow Christ but they do not like good things to come to another person. They are always full of jealousy and envy.
Nevertheless. Do not allow them to stop you
6. Finally, Bartimaeus encountered Jesus and encountered healing. St Augustine encountered Saint Ambrose and changed.
When people encounter us, what do they encounter? What impression do we live on those who come close to us? Do we transform them for good or do we leave them worse than they come? Jesus transforms the life of a blind man.
Do we lead people to more spiritual blindness, are we avenues that keep people away from God or are we instruments bringing them close to God? Can souls who encounter us encounter positive change?
When we encounter Jesus, our lives will change and when our lives change, we affect the world positively.
May God help us and give us the grace to always come close to Him. May He bless you. Amen.