We have emerged from extraordinary period. After the relative freedom which we enjoyed for about a year after our first lock-down, to be plunged back into a serious lockdown crisis was jarring. Our period of isolation from the worst effects of Covid-19 also came to an end, with the disease not only affecting people in our city but also impacting and taking the lives of fellow parishioners. As the disease spread around us, so also did a much darker disease that attempted to eat away at the heart and essence of our community. Notions of the common good and love for neighbour were eaten away by the adoption of language about personal freedoms and the right for self-determination. We have all been inhabiting what is called a liminal space, or an in-between existence. Things that we could once take for granted, like gathering together for Mass, were denied us. Liminal spaces are always jarring and unpleasant. Like airport terminals, they serve a purpose – but you wouldn’t want to live there.
The town of Jericho is something like a liminal space. The climate down in the Jordan Valley was generally more agreeable than up in the rocky, mountainous regions around Jerusalem. Many people who had to work in Jerusalem from time to time found it easier and more pleasant to make their home in Jericho. although most of the action was up in Jerusalem, Jericho was not without its charms. The main north-south road ran right through the town, so there were always lots of visitors from far-away places. This was especially true just before a Jewish pilgrimage festival, when crowds of pilgrims would make their journey to Jerusalem from north or south through the town.
Bartimaeus was perhaps even in a decent mood. The chances that his pathetic begging would pay off were much higher. People were generally in a good mood on their way to a festival and everyone was excited that the new rock-star Rabbi would pass through with his crowd of followers. So when his chance arrived, he didn’t miss it. He shouted out with all his might the declaration of his faith in Jesus, the son of David, to have pity on him. When the crowd tells him that Jesus has stopped, he responds with all his enthusiasm: he throws aside his cloak, jumps up and runs towards Jesus. Jesus asks him the same question that he asked Jacob and John last week; “What do you want me to do for you?”