There are a number of ways, I think, in which we could approach this story of Jesus’ encounter with blind Bartimaeus:
- We could see it as a miracle story, which it certainly is, and compare it with other miracle stories in the gospels, especially with other miracles that involve healing.
- Or, we could see this story as a story of faith. Jesus commends Bartimaeus for his faith, and suggests that his strong and persistent belief was the catalyst for his healing.
- But there is a third possibility, and this is the one that I would choose this morning – and that is to approach this story as a story of desire – a story of our desire for God, and God’s desire for us.
Whenever a man expresses an interest in our life, David, who is the novice guardian, invites him to make a few visits to us here to the monastery. Over these visits he gets to know us, and we him. During those visits, he has a brief experience of our life. He joins us for the Offices and the Eucharist, shares in some of the household chores that need to be done to keep this place running, and is invited for countless walks along the river or endless cups of tea, so that individual brothers can have a conversation with him.
For a number of years now, when it is my turn to have a conversation with a prospective member of the community, I ask him the usual questions. Where is he from? What does he do? How did he find us? What is he looking for? I wait for him to ask me questions. Eventually I ask him the one question, indeed really the only question that I am interested in. I ask him if he has ever fallen in love before. For whatever reason, most men, when I ask that question are completely taken aback. It is not a question they are expecting. But for me the question, or in truth the answer, is essential.
Now, just to be clear, I am not interested in the ins and outs of his love life. I don’t want to know the gory details of his romances. I just want to know if he has ever fallen in love and what that experience was like for him.