Who could imagine that she would later be a well-known American author, activist, lecturer, famous speaker, author of many books, and an advocate for people with disabilities amid numerous other causes. One of her famous quotations says, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.”
Her name was Helen Adams Keller. She was not just the only person whom we can name as someone who surpasses such physical deformities and rise into who they are now. Personalities like the famous singer Stevie Wonder; the 32nd President of the United States of America Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Astronomist, Mathematician and Physicist Galileo Galilee, and many others, were all blind, but became so famous and had brought inestimable contribution to our world. Yes, they may be blind physically, but their blindness for them is a mere physical ailment, because it did not cripple their dreams to become an inspiration to many people across the world.
In our gospel today, another blind person is presented to us as someone who can inspire us because of his great faith. He has no name even of his own. He was called “Bartimaeus,” which means “Son of Timaeus.” In addition, Timaeus in Hebrew means “foul, defiled, polluted, or unclean.” Now we can imagine if a person will be called “Son of Timaeus,” that son will have nothing to be proud of. If a person is called by such a name, while he lived in a dire situation as a beggar and an outcast, his life must have really been miserable.
Nevertheless, Bartimaeus heard of Jesus’ coming. He was at that time sitting by the roadside begging. He might have heard of Jesus as someone who could lift him out of his misery. Then he began to call out, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” But the people around him weren’t so compassionate with him, but rather scolded him and told him to keep quiet. Bartimaeus never lost hope but shouted even louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” With that, Jesus stopped and called him. As soon as he was called by Jesus, Bartimaeus threw away his cloak. His ‘cloak’ was all what he had. It represents all his securities and the only thing that could give him comfort. Imagine a blind man throwing away the only thing that he has in order to follow Jesus. Only a man with such great amount of faith could do such a thing! Not only that, as soon as he was cured of his blindness, Bartimaeus followed Jesus along the road. In short, he became a disciple of Jesus.
Now, what can we learn from such great story of God’s compassion on Bartimaeus? Indeed we may not be blind like Bartimaeus, but, it could be that our heart may be tormented with ‘blindness.’ Blindness of heart may be more debilitating than physical blindness, because it cripples us to appreciate all the goodness of God that we are experiencing day by day. We can gain back our sight if we learn to recognize all the little things that we have and thank God for it. If we lose sights of any possibilities and choose to ‘sit by the roadside’ doing nothing in desperation, then we stop to search for what is more essential. When we easily give up because other people tell us to ‘keep quiet,’ we refuse God’s gift of self-responsibility to know what is good for us. Instead we give the power to others and to the situation to control us, so that we begin to live a life of passivity.
Let us not give up and let despair and hopelessness consume our lives. Let us recognize God’s compassion every day, even in the midst of insurmountable difficulties. May we always recognize that our God is bigger than all our problems.