Faith is a protest against a sorrowful situation that we don’t understand, says Pope Francis.
Pope Francis on May 6 began a new topic for his Wednesday audience catecheses: prayer. And for his teaching, he drew from the Bible character that he says he finds most likable: Bartimaeus.Prayer, he said, is what nourishes faith, and is also what expresses faith. It is like “a shout that comes from the heart of those who believe and trust in God.”
Then, calling on the story of this character from the Bible, Mark 10:46-52 — “and I confess to you for me he is the most likable of all” — the pope spoke of how blind Bartimaeus is not an anonymous figure. He has a face and a name, and he sits outside the city of Jericho, which was a city at the crossroads, where merchants and pilgrims were always passing by.
Having heard that Jesus would be passing through, Bartimaeus “begins to wait: he would do everything possible to meet Jesus,” just as others would, the pope noted, such as Zacchaeus, also from Jericho, and others as well.
So this man enters the Gospels as a voice shouting at the top of his lungs. He cannot see. He doesn’t know if Jesus is close or far; he can perceive from the multitude, which at a certain moment increases and approaches … but he is completely alone and no one cares about him. So what does Bartimaeus do? He shouts. And he keeps shouting. He uses the only weapon he has – his voice.
Francis noted how his repeated shouting was annoying and various people rebuke him. But he screams all the louder, addressing Jesus as “Son of David.”
“This phrase,” explained the Holy Father, “is very important. It means ‘Messiah’ – he proclaims him the Messiah. It is a profession of faith that comes from the mouth of this man spurned by everyone.”
Jesus, of course, hears his outcry. “The prayer of Bartimaeus touches his heart, the heart of God,” Francis said, “and the gates of salvation open to him.”
Then, the Holy Father noted, Jesus asks him to express his desire. “This is important,” the pope affirmed.
“And thus the shout becomes a petition. ‘Let me see.’”
Jesus recognizes in this man “all the power of his faith … Faith is to have both hands raised. It is a voice that clamors to implore the gift of salvation.”
Faith is a protest against a sorrowful situation that we don’t understand. A lack of faith is to limit oneself to suffer a situation which we’ve resigned ourselves to. Faith is the hope of being saved. A lack of faith is to accustom oneself to an evil that oppresses us and to stay there.
“Dear brothers and sisters,” the pope said, we begin this catechesis series with the shout of Bartimaeus, because perhaps in a character like this, everything is there.
Bartimaeus was a man of perseverance. The people surrounding him explained to him that it was useless to ask, that it was an outcry without a response, that it was an annoying noise, and enough! Please stop shouting. But he did not remain silent. And at the end, he got what he wanted.
More forceful than any opposing argument, there is, in the heart of man, a voice that pleas. All of us have this voice inside. A voice that rises spontaneously, without anyone telling it to … a voice that asks about the meaning of our journey down here, especially when we find ourselves in darkness. Jesus, have mercy on me. Jesus, have mercy on me. What a beautiful prayer this is!
Francis reflected that perhaps these words are inscribed in all of creation. Everything calls out, he said, so that the “mystery of mercy might find its definitive fulfillment.” Christians share the cry of prayer with all men and women. But even more, the pope said, citing St. Paul, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now” (Romans 8:22).
“Artists often interpret this silent cry of creation,” he said, “that pulses in every creature and emerges above all in the heart of man, because man is the ‘beggar before God’ (CCC 2559). What a beautiful definition of man: The beggar before God.”