“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47)…
There is a best selling post-apocalyptic novel written by Cormac McCarthy called “The Road”. It tells the story of an unnamed man and his young son who are living during a time after the world has been destroyed through apocalyptic warfare and tribes of cannibals hunt down humans, capturing them and harvesting them for their meat by cutting off body parts and consuming them when they are hungry. In the novel, the father is slowly dying and deals not only with his own mortality, but also with his fears for his son as they journey along the road seeking a better place to live.
It is obviously a gruesome and depressing novel. I have read it several times over the years since it was published in 2006 as it is often studied in schools and is considered a pivotal text from an English literature perspective. McCarthy claims that he was inspired to write this story after travelling through Mexico with his young son and imagining what it would be like if he knew he would have to leave his son behind there.
I have been thinking about this story, “The Road” very much in recent days, since listening to the Gospel in Mass a few days ago. This Gospel that I am referring to told the story of Bartimaeus – the blind beggar – who cried out to Christ as He was walking along the road, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:46-52). In the story we are told that Bartimaeus was “rebuked” and told to stop shouting, but he only shouted all the more, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”. Finally, the people called to Bartimaeus, “Take heart; rise, He is calling you.” When they called this man, Bartimaeus THREW OFF his mantle and ran to Jesus.
I cannot seem to get this scene out of my head. This poor beggar, this man who presumably owned nothing other than his mantle and his staff, threw them off! He cast them aside. He got rid of them. Just imagine it! He threw aside something so important to him because he wanted to rush to get close to Christ, and he knew that Christ could help him. He knew that where he was going, he would not need that mantle anymore.
I just cannot seem to stop seeing that image. It has made me think about my mobile phone. I use my mobile phone a lot! I use it as a telephone (we do not have a landline), I use it as a GPS (I have the world’s worst sense of direction), I use it for my work (I mark essays on it, send reminders to parents and students, field enquiries from new students, make payments to my team, collect payments from students, conduct tutor-training and student-classes using Zoom), I use it for fun (I watch movies on it and listen to music with it), I use it for prayer (I listen to familiar prayers and search for new ones, I search for things to reflect and meditate upon).
Now, I compare myself to Bartimaeus… To follow Christ, he threw off his mantle… For Bartimaeus, his mantle was his phone… It was useful for warmth, for shelter, for sleeping, for comfort, for storing things he found on his way. It was all he had left… And he threw it away…
Now, I am not suggesting that we all throw our mobile phones away – I just could not do my job as a mother wife or teacher without it – but I am suggesting that we need to look at our priorities.
After all, Bartimaeus the blind beggar is one of the people who was healed by Christ and who is actually NAMED in the Bible. He was not simply referred to as the blind man, or the leper, or the man under demonic possession. That is important! We know his name! Why? Because in the days when the Gospels were written, the people named in them were named as WITNESSES, which means that others could ask for them by name to verify the events that they had witnessed. But that is not the only reason Bartimaeus was named. There is another – even more important – reason for this…
When Bartimaeus was called by Christ, after all his crying out, he “sprang up” and cast off his mantle and went to Christ (Mark 10:50). Christ asked him what he wanted and Bartimaeus answered, “Master, let me receive my sight.” And God gave Bartimaeus his sight. He allowed him to see THIS world with his eyes, and he allowed him to see the NEXT world with his soul. And that is why Bartimaeus is named in the Bible, because he “followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:52).
Bartimaeus was a true disciple of Christ. He cast of his mantle and “followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:52).
How glorious is that! Now, if only I could truly cry out with all the reverence in my tiny worthless little soul, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47)… What a journey I could take along that road behind Christ…
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.