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Glancing Thoughts
Thirtieth Sunday
of Ordinary Time
October 28, 2018
Eleonore Stump

What Do You Want?

In the Gospel Reading, blind Bartimaeus will not stop yelling for Jesus to have pity on him, until Jesus finally calls for him. 

And at this point the funny parts of the story start. Why doesn’t Jesus go over to Bartimaeus? Why wait for the blind man to find his way to Jesus? And when Bartimaeus does find his way to him, Jesus asks him what seems like the dumbest question: “What do you want me to do for you?” What on earth would anybody suppose Bartimaeus wants? He’s blind!

Bartimaeus came to Jesus and he saw the Lord, because seeing was what he really wanted
And when Jesus heals him and Bartimaeus can see, Jesus says that Bartimaeus’s faith has saved him. But why? What does Bartimaeus’s receiving his sight have to do his being saved?

Here we need to notice what Bartimaeus actually says to Jesus in answer to Jesus’ question to him. Bartimaeus does not say to Jesus, “I want my sight.” He says, “I want to see.” To want sight is to want a capacity which can be used for all kinds of purposes—raising sheep, making money. But to want to see is to want the connection with reality that the exercise of sight makes possible. Wanting to see is wanting to know the true nature of reality, hidden in one way from a person when he is blind.

Once we see what Bartimaeus asks for, the funny parts of the story make more sense. When Jesus calls Bartimaeus to himself, he gives Bartimaeus a small period of time to consider what he really wants, before Jesus asks him. And then the presence of the Lord and that question serve as a call to Bartimaeus to commit himself to just one heart’s-desire. And Bartimaeus finds it: I want to see.

Seeing isn’t limited to seeing the blue of the sky or the road to home. It is also a matter of seeing the truth about things, or even of seeing The Truth himself. 

And so Jesus gives Bartimaeus all that he asks for. Bartimaeus sees not only the world around him but also his Lord. And in seeing Jesus, Bartimaeus accepts the Giver together with the gift of sight. Although Jesus gives Bartimaeus the option of going off, Bartimaeus stays by Jesus and follows him.

Bartimaeus came to Jesus and he saw the Lord, because seeing was what he really wanted. And that’s why Jesus tells him that his faith has saved him.

Eleonore Stump
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University

Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go