In this past Sunday’s Gospel, we read about Jesus’ healing of the blind Bartimaeus outside the city walls of Jericho.
It’s a familiar enough story. There’s no doubt that it’s a powerful story. But as with all familiar stories, it’s far too easy for it to zoom past our ears without properly sinking in.
However, the fact is, it’s our story.
We are born blind. Ever since the Fall, that’s the way it’s always been. We live in a small, superficial world – and all the while, the greater, vastly more important reality in which we truly dwell remains unseen.
Unfortunately, in this life, there is little that can be done about that. As St. Paul writes: right now, we can only see “in a mirror dimly” – only later will we see “face to face” (1 Cor 13:12). However, we can choose to respond to this reality in one of two ways.
1. As the Pharisees
Being the people Jesus accused of being “blind guides” (Mt 15:14), the Pharisees lived in a small world. They had their own little system built up, and they were, in truth, its rulers. Their blindness was so complete, that they denied even having it (Jn 9:41). And the walls of their little world were so thick, that they wouldn’t let anyone greater enter in.
According to G. K. Chesterton, this form of blindness is a classic example of insanity. Their system is perfectly self-explanatory, but it is too small.
“Oh, I admit that you have your case and have it by heart, and that many things do fit into other things as you say,” Chesterton writes, “I admit your explanation explains a great deal; but what a great deal it leaves out! […] So you are the Creator and Redeemer of the world: but what a small world it must be! What a little heaven you must inhabit, with angels no bigger than butterflies! How sad it must be to be God; and an inadequate God! […] How much happier you would be, how much more of you there would be, if the hammer of a higher God could smash your small cosmos, scattering the stars like spangles, and leave you in the open, free like other men to look up as well as down!” (Orthodoxy, Chapter 1)
2. As Bartimaeus
Whether before or after his healing, Bartimaeus lived humbly in a larger world. He recognized the evident darkness before him not as the dominant reality, but as a broken reality. Instead of accepting his immediate surroundings as the only real world in existence, he recognized the greater reality he knew of but couldn’t see as the only reality to have the sovereign power to give life, bring healing, and contain ultimate meaning. Like Puddleglum in C. S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, he knew the difference between the creation, and the Creator, the copy and the Original. He knew not to confuse the two.
And as it happened, his world was large enough that he noticed what the purportedly non-blind people around him failed to see – his Saviour, Redeemer, and God walking before him.
This is the choice set before us. We must live either according to that small superficial reality before us, built cozily, conveniently around us – or according to that larger reality which we can neither see nor explain, but which explains everything.
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