Today’s Gospel reading takes place in Jericho, which happens to be one of the oldest cities in the world. People have been living in Jericho for 11,000 years! Remarkably, it is also the first city in all of human history to have a wall built around it. Located between the Jordan River and Jerusalem, those first walls separated God’s people from God’s promise. We remember in that story how God’s fidelity and faithfulness, however undeserved, rang loud and clear through the thunder of crumbling walls. We also remember that God chose to include the cooperation of His people in this victory, and through their humble obedience, bold faith, and joyous noise it was accomplished.
It is that joyous noise that rings through our first reading (Jer. 31:7-9) recalling the Lord’s deliverance of all peoples, promising restoration of unity, consolation, and tender care. Specifically, the blind and lame are included among those the Lord will gather to Himself, which we find fulfilled in today’s Gospel (among many). In this town of Jericho, with its backdrop of joy, victory, and unity, Jesus meets Bartimaeus, a blind beggar living ostracized and destitute. When he heard that it was Jesus who was walking by, Bartimaeus called out to the Lord in bold faith. His blindness did not stop him from recognizing the Messiah, calling Him “Son of David” and daring to ask for a miracle. There were no stone walls separating him from Jesus, but, instead, stony hearts. He was silenced and isolated, even by those who claimed to follow Jesus. In faith, Bartimaeus continued to call for the Lord. Jesus responded by instructing those same people who had stood in his way to instead call Bartimaeus to Him. Jesus did not only heal Bartimaeus that day, but also the hearts of His crowd of followers. He changed their attitude, and therefore their voices, from rebuke and neglect to encouragement and inclusion. Not only can we learn from Bartimaeus in his bold faith, his swift response to Jesus’ invitation, and how whole-heartedly he followed Jesus after his miraculous encounter, but also from the crowd who allowed their hearts to be softened by the Lord, who lent their voices to the joy of encountering Jesus.
If you’ll indulge me in one last historical reflection, Jericho’s tower was known for its shadow, which could engulf the whole city. It was built to mimic the very mountain on which Christ experienced His temptations in the desert. In the destruction, we see a flood of light into the city and a peek ahead into Jesus’ triumph over Satan, both in the desert and on the cross. This is the victory foreshadowed in Jericho and all of our readings today: Christ Jesus’ victory over death. The first reading remembers God’s previous victories and looks forward to more and the Alleluia explicitly names Christ’s victory over death through life brought in the Gospel (2 Tim 1:10). Today, Jesus shows us His power over infirmity, pointing us forward to His victory on the cross, and He shows us a glimpse of the ultimate Promised Land, the heavenly unity of God and His people.
Today’s readings encourage us to reflect in our own hearts: In what ways has God been faithful to me in the past? What walls have I put up? In what way is Jesus calling me to new tenderness to His word and His people? Just like in Jericho, God’s victory in this world and in our hearts happens through our cooperation with His Holy Will. Let us be earnest in our reflections that we may cry aloud with both the ancient victory of Jericho and the heavenly trumpets of the Wedding Feast of The Lamb. Let us boldly sing today’s Psalm: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!”
Coordinator of Youth Faith Formation