February 2006 - Volume 10, Issue 7

Jesus And The Outcasts

By Rev. Msgr. Frank C. Wissel

Painting of Bartimaeus

There was a Gospel reading (Mk l0:46-52) that contains one of the most tragic figures in the New Testament known as Bartimaeus. He is a blind beggar. Obviously, blind describes his condition; and begging was his living.

Now one would logically assume that Bartimaeus was his name, but Bartimaeus is really not a proper name at all. It is a word that simply means "son of Timaeus." Apparently, this man was so little regarded that no one bothered to learn his name or even if he had one. He was only known as the blind son of a man named Timaeus, who eked out a meager existence by begging on the streets of Jericho.

He appears in this Gospel because Jesus and the crowd that had gathered around him happened to pass near the place where he was seated. When Bartimaeus heard the loud noise, he inquired about its meaning and was told that it was Jesus of Nazareth. Apparently, he had prior knowledge of Jesus, because he immediately began to cry out to him for help.

At this point, we have another indication of how this blind beggar was disregarded by the townsfolk of Jericho. Many of the people were scolding him to make him keep quiet. Maybe they thought Bartimaeus was going to solicit Jesus and his followers for a donation and were embarrassed by it.

In any case, they did not want their distinguished visitor and festive occasion disturbed by someone as insignificant as a blind beggar. But Bartimaeus persisted until his cries were heard by Jesus. Jesus cared about all people, especially the disadvantaged and oppressed. With him, no cry was so readily heard or so willingly answered as that of an outcast.

Most of us like to think of ourselves as champions of the underdog, which means that we cheer for the athletic team that isn't expected to win. That, of course; does not involve a great deal of personal commitment. But what about the real underdogs, the people who live at the bottom rung of 'the social ladder? They may be poor, sick, old, physically or emotionally handicapped. Any number of problems can put people outside the" mainstream of life.

Have we ever wondered why Jesus cared so deeply for the outcast? I think there were two basic reasons.

One was that he knew by personal experience how it felt to be an outcast. Remember, his life started in a stable and in another Gospel we're told that when he went back to visit his hometown he was rejected because of what he was teaching. They even wed to kill him.

In another Gospel (John), "To his own he came, yet his own did not accept him." He knew what it was like to be an outcast. Jesus had that experience and he never forgot how it hurt. That was one of the reasons that he always had special care for the outcast.

The other reason was that as God's son he knew that the father favored and was extremely sensitive to the outcast.

Jesus understood himself to be the Son of the heavenly father and the brother of every man and woman on earth. This truth is explained in the judgment Gospel. "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink: "The people hearing this were puzzled, then Jesus explained: "As often as you did it for one of my least brothers and sisters, you did it for me."

There were no outcasts with Jesus, because there were no outcasts with God. They were all his brothers and sisters, because they were all the sons and daughters of his father in heaven.

As Christians, we are called to share that same conviction. A person's cry for help must reach our ears and touch our hearts.