Homily notes: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Fr Brendan Byrne SJ 16 October 2021

Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, becomes a model of discipleship and faith. Homily notes for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B, 24 October 2021

Lectionary reading
First reading:
Genesis 2:18-24
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 127(128)
Second reading: Hebrews 2:9-11
Gospel: Mark 10:2-16

Link to readings.

Today’s Gospel, the healing of the blind beggar Bartimaeus, Mark 10:46-52, is the last episode on Jesus’ long journey to Jerusalem.

That journey had begun with the curing of a blind person at Bethsaida in Galilee (8:22-26). It concludes with this cure of a person similarly afflicted, as Jesus is leaving Jericho, the last town before Jerusalem. In this way, the cure of blindness ‘frames’ the journey at its beginning and end. The arrangement suggests an intention on the part of the Evangelist to make the physical blindness of the two men Jesus heals a symbol of the spiritual blindness of the disciples, which, as we have noted again and again, is the chief focus of Jesus’ activity on the journey to Jerusalem.

The instant cure of Bartimaeus and his readiness to ‘follow (Jesus) along the way’ contrasts sharply with the reluctance of the disciples to come to terms with what awaits Jesus in Jerusalem (suffering and death) and their dragging their heels in the matter of following him there (10:32).


The first cure, in 8:22-26, was unusual in that the man recovered his sight in two stages: at first he saw only indistinctly; then, following further ministration from Jesus, he saw clearly. Taken symbolically, the two-stage cure reflects the situation of the disciples. They now know that Jesus is the Messiah (8:29) and so in this sense have partial ‘sight’. But right to the end of the Gospel, despite frequent warnings, they fail to comprehend that Jesus’ messianic ministry will involve giving up his life as a ransom for many (10:45).

They will have to go back to Galilee (16:7) and make the journey of understanding again and again before they can ‘see clearly’. In a sense the Gospel of Mark is designed to help believers make this journey over and over, until Jesus’ suffering and the sufferings of their own lives become part of a deeper understanding of the mystery of the divine entry into the world’s pain and suffering in the person of Jesus.


What happens to Bartimaeus highlights by contrast just how far the disciples have to travel on this wider journey of understanding. Presumably he is sitting at the gate of the city, a good place to beg for alms. Sensing that a large crowd is passing through the gate and learning that at its centre is the miracle-worker from Nazareth, he begins to make a great commotion, calling on Jesus for help.

As with so many other desperate people in the Gospel, Bartimaeus has to surmount a barrier in his attempt to get access to Jesus. The crowd, including presumably Jesus’ disciples, try to silence him and shoo him away. The discouragement only makes him cry out all the louder, until at last Jesus, becoming aware of him, stops and asks that he be brought over.

The Gospel account highlights the energy of the man’s response: flinging off his cloak, jumping up and going to Jesus. Physically he has nothing – now not even his cloak. What he does have is an acute sense of his own need and a deep reserve of faith, which has driven him to break through the barrier so vigorously to get access to Jesus.

Jesus’ question, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ and Bartimaeus’ response, ‘Master, that I may see again’, may seem redundant; the man’s need is obvious. But the request that he voices is one that all who would be disciples of Jesus have to make over and over again throughout their lives – not in the sense of physical sight but in the sense of capacity to really follow Jesus with understanding of what his mission is truly about.

In this area all lack a capacity to ‘see’ which only divine power can remedy.


And just as Bartimaeus, his sight restored, ‘followed (Jesus) upon the way’, so we will follow him ‘along the way’ of our own lives only if we know our need for a ‘sight’ that he alone can give. Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, becomes then, at this climactic stage of Jesus’ journey, a model of discipleship and faith.

The First Reading, from Jeremiah, 31:7-9, speaks exultantly of homecoming that will reverse the bitterness of Exile. In later times the wonders foretold in such text were related to the hopes for the messianic era, which the healing miracles of Jesus, such as that described in the Gospel, fulfil. In line, too, with the attractive divine statement at the end, Jesus taught his disciples to address God – as he himself did – as ‘Father’.

The Second Reading, from Heb 5:1-6, continues the sense of Jesus as High Priest. Because he is human, he can truly sympathise with human weakness. Because of his divine status and appointment, he is uniquely placed to bring our needs efficaciously before God.

Brendan Byrne, SJ, FAHA, taught New Testament at Jesuit Theological College, Parkville, Vic., for almost 40 years. He is now Emeritus Professor at the University of Divinity (Melbourne). His commentaries on the Gospels can be found at Pauline Books and Media