'With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them a straight path in which they shall not stumble.' - Jeremiah 31:9

This Sunday, Mark concludes his three ways of dying with Jesus with one of the meaningful narratives of his Gospel: the cure of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar (Mark 10:46-52).

He began his teaching on how we're to die with Jesus back in chapter 8, stressing the death which comes from being totally open to whatever God wants of us. In chapter 9, he expanded that death to include our accepting everyone in the community as equals, even the most powerless. Finally, we heard Jesus' non-negotiable command to imitate His ministry by becoming servants and slaves to all.

Mark created the Bartimaeus narrative as a contrast to last week's James and John passage. Only twice in his Gospel does Jesus ask anyone, "What do you want me to do for you?" - here and last week.

What they want
James and John stupidly ask for the glory seats; the blind beggar, for something significantly different.

Bartimaeus has already shown himself as a potential perfect disciple by immediately responding to Jesus' call, even throwing aside his only possession: his cloak. So, when Jesus asks him, "What do you want me to do for you?" Mark's readers are waiting to learn what answer an ideal follower of Jesus will give.

"Master," the blind man replies, "I want to see."

Mark presumes that simple request should always be our prayer: just to see what the risen Jesus wants us to see on that specific day, in that place, with those people around us.

Jesus responds, "Go your way; your faith has saved you," instead of, "Go your way; I cure you." Mark is convinced our faith in Jesus' dying and rising opens our eyes to our own dying and rising.

The evangelist ends by mentioning, "Immediately he received his sight and went behind Him on the way." Remember, Mark began this whole question of dying and rising with Jesus in chapter 8 by having Jesus tell Peter, "Get behind me, Satan." Finally, we've found the perfect disciple: one who follows behind Jesus instead of being an obstacle in His path.

Destroyed, reborn
Mark's very next passage describes Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. He only has six more days to live. Bartimaeus is following Him to His death...and resurrection.

Though Jeremiah (31:7-9) was convinced that the only way sixth-century-BCE Judaism could be salvaged was by undergoing a complete destruction and rebirth in the Babylonian Exile, he was just as convinced that Yahweh would eventually bring the Chosen People back home to live their faith in a more meaningful, less legalistic way: "They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them."

Many in our Church need to adopt this same hope. How do we change structures which the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini recently referred to as being 200 years behind the times? It takes a lot of hope to believe that, one day, we'll return to the faith of Jesus.

Zero in on the faith of the author of Hebrews (5:1-6). He believed the reason Jesus could save us was because He became completely one with us: "He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for He Himself is beset by weakness."

The risen Jesus is suffering through these times with us. That makes it more bearable.