“They came to Jericho. And as [Jesus] was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.”
St Ignatius would often invite people to enter into a Gospel text imaginatively. He had a strong belief in the power of the imagination to make a Gospel passage come alive. Interactions between people in the passage can be seen in our imagination or even experienced when we imagine a scene in our mind’s eye. What would it have been like to be there in that scene? To be one of the persons in the text, to think about what their experience would have been like or what they might have said, helps us to understand the Word of God more deeply.
The quote for today’s reflection becomes especially poignant when contemplated imaginatively. Bartimaeus was blind and sitting by the side of the road, begging. He was completely reliant on others for his livelihood, travel, and perhaps even his communication with the outside world. The text helps us to enter into the scene even more vividly. It gives us his name and the name of his family. He was Bartimaeus, and he was a son of Timaeus. This was no anonymous figure without a past or a story. He was a human being, with all the rich details that come with being human.
What if we used this technique, not just for imaging the lives of people in Scripture, but the lives of people we encounter in daily life? Do we just pass by people on the street without thinking of their stories? What if someone on the street were to ask me for help or for financial assistance. Do we consider them as anonymous figures, without stories, or names, or families? Can we contemplate the possibility that they are reliant on others for help and perhaps even for survival?
If you come across someone on the street today, maybe try out a bit of imaginative contemplation. Think of what their names might be and what their family is like. Consider also what help you may be to them. Are you being called to stop and reach out to them – to ask them their name and listen to their story?