“‘ Take courage, Jesus is calling you.'” Mark 10:46-52.
Jesus is on his journey to Jerusalem, and along the way, we have met several people in need. And today, we are only seven miles from Jerusalem, and in the town of Jericho, we hear the words of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, who calls out: “Jesus, have pity on me.”
In the New Testament, there are approximately thirty stories of Jesus healing people. In the cases of both Bartimaeus and Lazarus, these men have a unique distinction that we know their names. And yes, Bartimaeus may mean more precisely “the son of Timaeus.” So this may be more of a last or surname?
Several years ago, I was in New York City, ready to see a Broadway show, and standing under the theater marquee, the overhang that promotes the show and protects the waiting audience from rain or snow. On this stormy day, the doors of the theater had not opened, and without an umbrella, like so many other audience members, I stood there.
Next to me also waiting in line was a rather tall gentleman who I recognized — Robert Osborne, the narrator and chief spokesman for the Turner Movie Channel. For years, until his recent death, he introduced the treasury of films on cable television, whether in glorious color and those faded classics in gray tones of black and white.
As the crowd grew around us, Osborne and I were pushed together. So I took up the courage to say:
“Mr. Osborne, I’m a great fan of yours, and I have to thank you for your work on television. Most especially, the Turner Channel was a favorite of my mother’s. Towards the end of her life, our best mother and son moments were in the afternoons when together we watched one of the movies and listened to your commentary.”
I added an observation about my mother’s health condition and her issues with long-term and short-term memory. She could name actors in a particular obscure 1940’s film, such as Claudette Colbert, Merle Oberon, or Betty Davis, but could recall the names of nieces or nephews. Towards the end of her life, she was having considerable difficulty writing Christmas cards.
So Osborne smiled and thanked me and told me that it was not the first time someone mentioned this aspect of his older fan-base of loyal viewers.
In a way, we all carry within us these film texts whether a scene of a particular film or famous actor or actress, the lyrics of a song or a poem we know by heart, a book like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” or even the complexity of Picasso’s “Guernica.”
We call this an “afterglow,” an inner vision is so portable, that a particular song or the poem stays with us throughout life, and can be called up time after time.
So too, we have heard compelling gospel stories whose afterglow remains with us and remind us of what it means to follow Christ.
Two weeks ago, the gospel story of the “rich young man” left the journey and was not able to follow Christ. Or last week, James and John argued about fortune and fame, only to discover that servant leadership was their faithful following of Christ.
Such is the afterglow of people like Bartimaeus, the blind beggar whose courage or inner vision, despite his blindness, can see the one person who would listen to his plea, “Master, I want to see.”
And as written in Mark’s gospel, “Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.” And then we are told an all-important truth that once Bartimaeus received his sight, he was a changed person because of the healing hands of Jesus. And then Bartimaeus followed Christ.
Again, in the words of the gospel, “Take courage, get up, Jesus is calling you. “Do we have such courage?
Do we have the capacity to encourage others to follow Christ?
- It takes courage when we are blind to our gifts, talents, and potential.
- It takes courage when we are blind to the needs and hurts of our friends.
- It takes great courage when we are blind to our social or political views, or blind to our affluence and culture.
Only when we see the afterglow of saints and sinners, that we too can follow Christ to Jerusalem and share in his passion and new life that we also have the vision or afterglow as missionary disciples who can change the world in the Lord’s name.
Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.
Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are the principal actors in the new film “Green Book” and directed by Peter Farrelly, which is about to open in theaters nationwide. Academy Award winner.
Mahershala Ali is a former student of mine, and this past week, I saw the film at an exclusive preview at Saint Mary’s College and met with him.
Mahershala plays classically trained pianist Don Shirley who in the 1960’s goes on a tour of the deep South and is accompanied by his driver and bodyguard Tony Vallelonga, played by Viggo Mortensen. It is based on a true story, and as one of the members of the Don Shirley trio points out, “It takes great courage to change people’s hearts.” Sounds so much like today’s gospel. Take a look at the film trailer.