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Leave the mantle to see the light

On the occasion of the Passover, the Jews felt compelled to involve the disadvantaged in the joy of the feast. 

So beggars sat at the exit of the city of Jericho, where the road begins to climb toward Jerusalem, waiting for help from the well-disposed pilgrims.

Among these beggars was a blind man, identified by his surname, Bartimaeus. Mark’s gospel portrays Bartimaeus as the image of the disciple who finally opens his eyes to the light of the Master and decides to follow him along the way.

The first frame shows the beggar sitting along the way. He represents the man who is not yet enlightened by the gospel or by the light of Easter. He does not walk towards a destination, but gropes, involved in mysterious and perpetual succession of birth, life and death.

The first step he takes to recovery is the awareness of his situation. Only those who realise that they are leading a meaningless, unacceptable life, decide to look for a way out. 

Bartimaeus is not resigned to the darkness in which he is immersed. He gathers his wits to scream, asking for help from Jesus; he no longer wants to stay in his state of life.

Even the healing from spiritual blindness begins with a deep inner turmoil, the denial of a life devoid of values and ideals, intimate dissatisfaction that stimulates a search for alternative proposals.

The meeting with those who follow the Master is the first step towards the light (v.47).

Even those who accompany Jesus can be an impediment to those who try to approach the light of the gospel.

It seems impossible that those who followed the Master from Galilee can still be spiritually blind and be a hindrance to those who want to meet Christ. Even at Jericho, many rebuked Bartimaeus to keep quiet, and this continues to happen today.

To see if somone is really enlightened by Christ, or if he follows him just physically is quite simple. The feeling—that one has in the cry of the poor who asks for help—is revealed. 

Who is bothered, who pretends to ignore it or tries to silence him, is engaged in higher projects and has no time to take care of those who are in darkness, believes that there is something more important than to stop and help those who want to meet the Lord.

Jesus hears the cry of Bartimaeus and demands that he be brought before him. His call does not directly reach the blind; there is someone responsible for passing it on. These mediators represent the true followers of Christ.

They are those who spend much of their time listening to the problems of others; they always give encouragement, pointing to the blind the path that leads to the Master, encouraging, “Take heart! Get up, he is calling you”.

And so we come to the last stage. The blind man jumps up, throws off his mantle and runs to the one who can give him sight. The action of the blind man have a symbolic value and a theological message.

In Israel, the mantle was considered the only asset owned by the poor, “is all the covering he has for his body. In what else will he sleep?” (Exodus 22:26). 

The act of abandoning the mantle indicates the complete detachment, decisive, radical by the state in which he lived. He is no longer interested in the life he led up to that moment.

The story ends with the dialogue between Jesus and the blind man. 

The Master asks everyone who seeks the light to make his profession of faith, to believe in the one who can open his eyes. 

Whoever wants to be enlightened by Christ must choose between the old mantle and the light.

Father Fernando Armellini cmf
   Claretian Publications