In reflecting upon the readings for this past Sunday, October 25 — the story from Mark’s gospel about the blind beggar Bartimaeus — America Magazine’s John W. Martens poses the question, “Who do we tell today to shut up, to stop bothering the Messiah?”
It is, in fact, one of the most common themes in the Gospels. If the religious authorities, the other disciples, society at large, has deemed a person inappropriate for Jesus’s attention, it’s a good bet that’s exactly the person He’s going to seek out.
We live in an entitled society. Those of us with the dumb luck to have been born into the wealthiest nation in the history of the world are too often blind to just how much privilege comes from the random chance of birthright. Like the crowds surrounding Jesus, it can be all too easy for us to look down on the blind beggar in our midst, to assume his misfortune is due to some sin or character flaw. And when he cries out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” we might, like the disciples, be tempted to rebuke him for being too outspoken or for seeking special privileges that he doesn’t deserve.
But if we allow ourselves to think that way, we are judging by worldly standards, not by God’s. Jesus gave to all who asked, and especially to those who refused to be silenced. To quote a popular sentiment that Dorothy Day certainly believed, even if she never actually said the words as attributed to her, “The Gospel takes away our right forever to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.”