October 29th 2000 – 30th Sunday "B"
In the prophecy of Jeremiah, describing the return from exile, we heard these words: "I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst..." The important word here is "gather". Jesus has come to gather us into one people united by a common vision.
Most of our life is controlled, not by what we see but by a certain number of assumptions that we have inherited from our culture and have been transmitted to us through our education. We hardly realize how much our life is conditioned by various sets of assumptions, some of them concerning our perception of the physical reality around us, others related to our philosophical or theological systems. An assumption is some‑thing you assume, something you take for granted. It can be either something that has been demonstrated or that cannot be demonstrated. Every time someone questions one of our positions or statements and we answer: "Well, that's obvious!", we express an assumption. It's obvious for me, but not necessarily for the other person.
Various sets of assumptions is what founds the collective identity of a group, of a culture, of a religion. They open us to a certain understanding of reality, but they also limit us to that understanding. They make it very difficult for us to understand anybody else who starts from different systems or sets of assumptions. Some assumptions are even built into our senses. Take our eyes, for example. They are built in such a way that they can perceive only a very small part of the electro‑magnetic spectrum. They don't see the infra‑red light, neither the ultra‑violet. All those limitations affect the way we look at the world.
Jesus was surrounded by disciples and crowds who could see with the two eyes of their bodies, but were unable to recognize him as the Son of David, the Messiah. Then, comes that Bartimaeus, who in his blindness has a special insight into reality and who spontaneously calls him: "Jesus Son of David". Jesus is impressed and says "What do you want me to do for you". "I want to see", he replies, and he is healed by Jesus.
It is not easy to adapt to a new perception of reality. A book was written several years ago (Marius von Senden, Space and Sight) that speak of persons who were born blind and who recovered the sight when they were adult, thanks to a surgical intervention. These persons had a very hard time adapting to a new perception of things. Even if they could identify the forms and sizes of any object by touching them, before the operation, they could not distinguish a ball from a cube just by seeing them. Some had to close their eyes to go up or down a staircase without tripping!
What did the blind beggar do after his healing? Immediately he started to follow Jesus up the road. And it was the road from Jericho to Jerusalem where Jesus was going to his Passion. We don't know how well he adapted to that new existence...
What we know from our own experience is that each time we have been given to see a little more into ourselves, a little more of who God is, a little more of the complexity of people and things around us, it has caused changes, often painful ones, in our lives. Maybe we have continued to say: "Jesus, Son of David, I want to see". But maybe we have stopped making that prayer, preferring to return to the quietness of our anterior state. Things can be much nicer the way we figure them out than the way they are in reality.!
It is much nicer to built the world mentally as we want it to be than to adapt to a world that we have to build with the rest of humankind. "I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst," says the Lord.
On this Sunday called the World Mission Sunday, let us welcome in our lives Jesus who came to take each one of us out of our own little world to gather us into one people united by a common vision.