Yesterday I entered into a retreat at the monastery led by Fr. Jim Clarke. I was suddenly free to attend when another commitment was canceled. During the course of the morning several others shared similar experiences. For me, this was the activity of the Spirit, bringing together those called to hear the message of healing being offered. The day was filled with sacred storytelling – from the pages of scripture and from our lives. The sound of water flowing in the baptismal font provided the backdrop and oil became sacred as we blessed each other’s stories, placing the sign of the cross on our partner’s forehead. It reminded me of ritual moments celebrated around the world when seekers begin to formalize their faith journey within a community. For me, it echoed my personal experience of traveling with my husband when he chose to become Catholic. The day brought a surprising forum for my dream from the night before, giving me the space to share and honor its meaning in my life, and a channel for healing to begin. But, the most important piece of wisdom I heard was that Jesus primarily asked questions.. that he gave very few answers. In today’s gospel we hear the story of the blind beggar Bartimaeus as he cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”. A dialogue begins.
“And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; rise, he is calling you.’ And throwing off his mantle, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Master, let me receive my sight.” And Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way, your faith has made you well.’ And he immediately received his sight and followed him on the way.” (Mk 10:49-52)
Although this is primarily a story of healing, it is also a call narrative, like the call of the disciples earlier in the gospel and the call of Samuel in the Old Testament. Jesus calls for Bartimaeus and poses a question. The question provokes a response, a profession of faith and the formal beginning of discipleship. The word used here for healing is also indicative of discipleship. Bartimaeus throws off the old symbol of his life, the mantle, and embraces Jesus’ offer of a new vision. In many ways, the retreat I attended called forth the same things … throwing off what bound and blinded me, as depicted in my dream, professing my faith through my sacred story, and accepting a renewed call and vision of discipleship.
Have you ever had a Bartimaeus experience? Have you learned more from the questions or the answers in your life?