Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a blind man. Physical blindness is an evocative symbol of the terrible blindness of the soul that all of us sinners experience. When the pusilla anima (small soul) reigns, when the imago Dei (image of God) is covered over, we see within the narrow spectrum of our fearful desires.
Blind Bartimaeus, sitting helplessly by the road outside of Jericho begging for alms and attention, expresses this hopeless and darkened-over state of soul. When he hears that Jesus of Nazareth is in the vicinity, he begins to cry out, “Son of David, have pity on me.” The original Greek here is eleēson me, beautifully reflective of the liturgical cry of the church, Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy. Bartimaeus gives voice to the prayerful groaning of the whole people of God for release from the imprisonment of the small soul.
Though he is reprimanded by the crowd, Bartimaeus continues to shout until finally Jesus calls out to him. This is the summons that echoes from the very depths of one’s own being, the call of the magna anima (great soul), the invitation to rebirth and reconfiguration. Inspired by this voice and convinced that he has discovered the pearl of great price, the unum necessarium (one thing necessary), Bartimaeus jumps up and comes to Jesus.