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Emmitsburg, MD. 21727
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Snuff Out the Lamps - The Dawn has Come

Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Professor Emeritus
Mount St. Mary's University

(10-25-09) In words of power a Hindu poet speaks about death: "Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come." Dawn ends the long night of darkness of Blind Bartimaeus. This beggar at the gate of Jericho didn't wait for things to happen. He persistently called for Jesus. He is a model and a challenge to you and to me.

The young disciples of Jesus on their way to Jerusalem -except for Peter - remain spiritually blind. They misunderstand and even oppose Jesus---especially when he begins to teach them about his coming passion in Jersusalem. What a solid contrast it is between the disciples of Jesus who can see, but are spiritually blind and Bartimaeus who is physically blind, but makes an act of faith in Jesus. These followers of Jesus now on the last leg of their journey to Jerusalem still didn't get what Jesus is about. They remain confused about his teaching them in stories or parables about the Kingdom of God. On this journey as St. Mark describes it, Jesus has challenged them to come to an insight of who he is -a teacher, healer, and suffering Messiah. He has taught them what it means to follow him. The disciples still fail to understand what Jesus meant especially when he recently told them that he would suffer, die, and rise from the dead. They had been thrilled by the healing signs of Jesus-from his restoring sight to a blind man at the start of their journey; they marveled at various healings he had done along the way.

Jesus had struggled to bring his young disciples to some clearness of insight-to a faith that would help them to accept the workings of God through him. And now, as they start to leave Jericho, only 15 miles away from Jerusalem, the capital, they still remain confused as Jesus reaches out to a blind beggar at the city gate.

Bartimaeus had heard reports of Jesus, the Healer. Rumors of Jesus outpaced his actual presence in Jericho. Crowds are never kind to beggars, but Bartimaeus can't hold himself back. He's not the type of person who simply sits down and waits for things to happen. Although he can't see Jesus, he cries out. The crowd tries to silence him, but he shouts out even more. "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!" Bartimaeus doesn't fully understand the meaning of that title "Son of David" as it applies to Jesus the Messiah, but he has faith in Jesus and that's what counts.

Friends, the healing of Bartimaeus teaches you and me that although we may never fully understand the mystery of Jesus, we can still believe in him. Jesus can not see Bartimaeus, but he hears him. He says to the crowd: "Call him." In turn, a few in the crowd summon Bartimaeus: "Take courage. Get up, man. Jesus is calling you." Bartimaeus stumbles up to Jesus who looks at him with eyes of love and asks: "what do you want me to do for you?" "Master", cries the beggar, "I want to see." Our faith begins with a personal response to Jesus, a response of love in which you and I experience in Jesus the one person who can know and meet our deepest need. . . .and fill our ever-present emptiness, our incompleteness. As William Barclay, the outstanding Presbyterian Scripture teacher, claims: We may never be able to think things out in a theological manner, but the response of the human heart is enough. Blaise Pascal, outstanding mathematician and philosopher stresses a similar truth when he writes: "The heart has its reasons which reason does not know."

With his instantaneous, new-found sight Bartimaeus follows Jesus "on the way" He becomes a disciple of Jesus. Jesus had told him "Go your way." But Bartimaeus makes the way of Jesus his own way. . .. physically healed and spiritually healed. "Without being healed and empowered by God people will not have the spiritual insight to follow Jesus on the way of the cross."

The "way of Jesus" was more than his way to Jerusalem. His way is more than our way. Jesus' way consisted in his loving, obedient orientation to Abba, to God his Father. The complete thrust of his life was to do the will of his Father-"The Father's will I do always." . . "The Father's will is food and drink for me."

You and I can be healed or our inner blindness and strengthened to follow Jesus on his way. Bartimaeus had thrown aside his cloak to come to Jesus. May we cast off whatever it may be that hinders us from surrendering more deeply to him in his love for us. We need to see as he sees and love as he loves. You and I are challenged to snuff out our lamps because the dawn of Jesus has come home to us.

Read other homilies by Father Paul