‘Shout with joy for Jacob, for the Lord has saved his people, the remnant of Israel. See, I will bring them back. They had left in tears, I will comfort them as I lead them back.”
The words of the prophet Jeremiah are perplexing. They sound like a call to thanksgiving after a great act of deliverance. They were, in fact, words spoken to a broken people about to face the destruction of their land and the alienation of exile. As such they are an invitation to hope.
Such was Jeremiah’s faith in God’s salvation, that, even as he was overwhelmed by the approaching darkness, he refused to abandon hope. He stubbornly refused to abandon his faith that God would redeem the remnant that would endure what lay ahead. Such was his conviction that he dared to speak of this promised salvation as if it was already achieved. From any human perspective such hope lay in a distant and uncertain future. One is reminded of Job’s faith, which, from the darkest moment, insisted that “I know that my redeemer lives, and
that he, at the last, shall raise me up.”
Jeremiah’s words speak to all who have faced the darkness, both in life and within themselves. At such times the comfort of faith can seem like a scarcely remembered remnant from the past. It was to such a remnant that Jeremiah clung, convinced that God “would save his remnant Israel”.
In St Mark’s Gospel the healing of the blind beggar Bartimaeus comes at a crucial juncture in the unfolding of the narrative. Jesus and his disciples had made the long journey south towards Jerusalem. Along the way he had revealed himself to his disciples, preparing them for the death that awaited him in Jerusalem, promising them the new life that would come with his resurrection. The fact that they had continued to argue among themselves as to who was the greatest indicated that they had not really understood, that they had seen without
Finally, they had come to Jericho, the last resting place before the final ascent that would bring them to the gates of Jerusalem. Here, anticipating the greeting that would await Jesus on Palm Sunday, the blind Bartimaeus reached out to Jesus as the Messiah: “Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.”
The disciples wanted to dismiss this beggar, but Jesus saw what was hidden from them. He insisted that Bartimaeus be brought into his presence and asked a simple question: “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Master, let me see again.” Bartimaeus received the precious gift of sight. In the days ahead the disciples would struggle to see and understand. Lord, be for us a light that our darkness can never overcome. Open our eyes.