What does it mean to have faith in Jesus? What is this having faith in him?
It’s possible to answer these questions in an abstract way, with carefully defined terms in a theological discussion — possible, and useful. But we also need something more vital: a living demonstration.
That is what St. Mark gives us in today’s Gospel. In effect, he says, “You want to see what faith in Jesus means? Well, I’ll show you.”
Mark tells a story of a man who is destitute. Bartimaeus has nothing, frankly, but his underwear and a dirty old cloak. Nothing. He is blind, which prevents him from working. Family and friends are no help. So he sits on the street and begs.
One day, as he is sitting there, he hears a crowd gathering. People are saying that Jesus of Nazareth is coming. Bartimaeus has heard about Jesus before, and now, suddenly, a thought occurs to him: Jesus can restore my sight.
Without a second thought, he starts trying to get to Jesus. Because of the crowd and his disability, he simply yells Jesus’ name over and over, insistently, desperately. This is his only chance to see again. He’s not going to let it go. “Jesus! Jesus!” he cries out.
People standing near him try to make him stop. “Shut up, you heap of garbage.” But he won’t be stopped. The conviction that Jesus can heal him is too strong. “Jesus! Jesus!” he shouts.
Finally Jesus hears him. He pauses and asks someone to fetch the man. Bartimaeus jumps up, leaving his cloak (his only possession) behind, and comes.
Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus answers, “Master, I want to see.” And Jesus restores his sight.
There, Mark says. That is having faith in Jesus.
Each of us is left to ponder this demonstration. Various elements of the story may have particular significance for different ones of us.
Am I any less destitute than Bartimaeus?
Do I experience within me the gift, the inspiration, of faith in Jesus’ power to save me?
What social pressure am I willing to break through to get to Jesus?
Am I willing to let go of everything I have to receive what I need from him?
If Jesus’ question is, “What do you want me to do for you?” what’s my answer?