“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” —Albert Einstein
This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that miracles do happen. We can see this in the story of Bartimaeus the blind beggar. But we must first believe in miracles for them to happen.
What makes for a miracle-believer?
To believe is to ask, and Bartimaeus believes that the rabbi passing by, the Christ he has heard of, is the “Son of David.” Thus he asks shamelessly for the Messiah to have pity on him.
Despite setbacks and challenges—he is blind and a beggar in the midst of priests and Levites, and crowds trying to shut him up—he persistently asks, with great courage.
If the first base is to believe and ask, he gets to second base: “He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.” Christ not only notices him but calls for him.
With total freedom, symbolized by his throwing away his cloak, Bartimaeus promptly answers the call and goes to Christ.
Then he is confronted with a question—now he has his chance to get to third base—“What do you want me to do for you?” And without missing a beat he again asks, “Master, I want to see.”
He asks anew with a deeper faith because, as he comes face-to-face with Christ, the faith and the asking are integrated in the choice he makes to cast his lot with the Master.
He makes a choice— reaffirming more deeply his faith in Christ—and this securely positions him on third base.
Then, almost instantaneously, he runs to fourth base, or home. Christ tells him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Bartimaeus is home. “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.”
Bartimaeus is home not simply because he received his sight—though this is part of it—but because he “followed him on the way.” He became a follower of Christ, who was on his way to Jerusalem where the victory of the Cross and Resurrection was soon to happen.
Miracles do happen for those who believe and are willing to ask. For the miracle-believers, George Bernard Shaw gives a beautiful description, one echoed by John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy: “You see things and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were and I say ‘Why not?’”
Miracles and dreams become possible when one stands on sacred space to encounter God.
I will not do justice to this moment and, with your kind indulgence, I will refer to novelist Paulo Coelho and the late United Nations secretary general Dag Hammarskjöld.
As Coelho wrote, “We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen. Every day, God gives us the sun—and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy.
“Every day, we pretend we do not perceive that moment, that it doesn’t exist… But if people really pay attention to their everyday lives, they will discover the magic moment. It may arrive in the instant when we are doing something mundane… It may lie hidden in the quiet that follows the lunch hour or in the thousand and one things that all seem the same. But that moment exists—a moment when all the power of the stars becomes part of us and enables us to perform miracles.”
And as Hammarskjold said, “I don’t know Who—or what—put the question, I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone—or Something—and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.”
Bartimaeus’ story is also our story. It makes us remember that miracles are possible and thus confront what Einstein said, either we believe “nothing is a miracle” or “everything is a miracle.”
Bartimaeus’ story helps us discover or rediscover the magic moment when we are empowered not just to believe in miracles, but to “perform miracles” and “answer Yes to Someone or Something.”
The miracle is we set aside everything and follow Christ. We say “yes” to Christ.
Bartimaeus desired to see. He did and more. He saw his meaning and mission.
Bartimaeus’ journey is also our journey—a journey through blindness and poverty that leads us to a faith in an encounter with and a choice for Christ. We are led back home.