A few years ago I had to give a youth retreat on the topic of prayer. The biblical verse that we used to support the topic was that of Bartimaeus, the blind man. (Mk 10, 46-52) I remember that the teaching to be drawn from the reading was perseverance in prayer and that if we continue to pray consistently God will hear us and grant our petitions. There are times when the response is what we asked for and other times not; it all depends on what God decides is best for us and not just what we want.
Years later I had to use the same verse for another youth event, but I had not chosen the topic. There are times when we study the Bible that we have a verse in mind and we know the content and how to explain it. But on several occasions I know the expected message contained in the verse, but a totally different message comes to mind due to the situations in my life or the needs of those who will hear the message.
When reading that same verse a light went on and I saw in the verse something I had not seen before. It is that the topic of the event was about the call to let go that which ties us and prevents us to get to Jesus; it was not about prayer and perseverance. Many know the story of Bartimaeus, the blind man. He was seated by the roadside begging when he heard Jesus passing and cried out to Jesus to have pity on him. He pleads to Jesus so many times that he was heard and Jesus asked for the blind man to be brought to him.
The change of topic came about after reading: "Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him’. And they called the blind man, saying: ‘Take courage; get up, he is calling you.’ He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus." (Mk 10, 49-50) When we are called by Jesus, do we "throw aside" that which binds us and makes us feel secure to bow down with our vulnerability before Him? When we "throw aside" things it does not matter to us where they fall; we only want to get rid of them. Bartimaeus threw aside his cloak — the cloak that protected him from the cold and helped him feel secure. At the moment when Jesus called him, he did not need it anymore because he was bowing down before the one who knew the most intimate part of his being. In his vulnerability, Bartimaeus made his plea to be able to see.
Let us think about ourselves: What do we need to throw aside to bow down with honesty before our Father? Not only did Bartimaeus not stop to look where his cloak had fallen, but he sprang up, made the decision to let it go, and without looking back, he went to Jesus. Each one of us has our own "cloak." Let us let them go, and sincerely and openly ask and accept what is given to us since Jesus, our Savior, already knows what we need.
Elizabeth Johnston is the intercultural program specialist for the Diocese of Rochester.