Reflection Sunday 24 October 2021
‘The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.’
This is a quote by Helen Keller whom at the age of 19 months through illness lost both her hearing and sight. She learned to read and communicate and spent her life advocating for the rights of people living with a disability.
I noticed this quote on a wall while at Bankstown Uniting church this week where some of the ministers and pastoral carers from the Georges River Presbytery gathered to pray, to contemplate and meditate on a passage of Scripture. The passage was the story of Bartimaeus receiving his sight again.
As I looked at the quote, I thought of my beautiful cousin Helen who died last year. Around age 16 Helen went blind. She was one of the loveliest people I ever knew. She always seemed positive and cheerful despite not being able to see. I have never forgotten one occasion when she astounded me with a comment. It was a very warm Summer’s day in Ireland and I was sitting outside against a recently painted white window ledge and suddenly I jumped up. Before I said anything Helen casually said, “Those little red spiders are everywhere.” The window ledge was covered in the tiniest little spiders about the size of a full stop, that were red all over. They only come out when it is really warm in Ireland. I had never noticed them before in my life. What astounded me was Helen’s awareness of them and awareness of why I had jumped even before I said anything. From then on, I have always marvelled at how people who do not have physical sight can have such insight and awareness, how they may have no sight but have incredible vision.
In calling out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Bartimaeus showed insight and vision that others did not have. Though blind Bartimaeus recognised Jesus as the Messiah. In our lectio divina (method of meditating on a scripture passage) we explored the name of the man who was blind (Bartimaeus) and the name by which Bartimaeus addressed Jesus. One person in our group told us how the name Timaeus means ‘honour’. Bar means ‘son of’ so together Bartimaeus means son of honour. Here was son of honour, in a place without honour. Begging with a bowl was anything but dignified. Yet son of honour meets son of David. Son of honour from his place of indignity recognises Jesus, Son of David, of highest royal honour. Jesus means ‘Saviour’ or God who saves.
Calling Jesus son of David, Bartimaeus recognises the royal line from whom Jesus is descended and Jesus as Messiah. Bartimaeus recognises that God who saves, God who heals and restores, is passing by. Bartimaeus sees what others cannot see. Bartimaeus has real vision. Who Jesus is, is revealed to him.
Jesus recognises something in Bartimaeus and asks him what he wants. Perhaps Jesus was checking whether the man was asking him for money or much more. Bartimaeus wanted more. Bartimaeus replied, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Though blind, Bartimaeus could see with the eyes of faith, he could see from the heart.
How badly do you want to see? Helen Keller’s words are very challenging to people who claim to be followers of Jesus. We claim to be able to see, but can we really? Perhaps in the way we often take our sight for granted we also take what we know about Jesus for granted. We have heard that Jesus saves but perhaps it is something we know in our head rather than something living in our heart. Spiritual practices, such as prayer, meditation, silence, stillness, contemplating Scriptures, singing, fasting, walking and other practices can assist us in regaining our spiritual vision, of growing our awareness of the wonder of God’s mysterious presence in the world and of God’s love for us and all creation.
Song: Lord, let me see https://vimeo.com/399131126
Prayer of St. Paul
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. Amen. (Ephesians 1:17,18)
Photo: Red Spiders (clover mites) Ireland
Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation