Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
October 24th, 2021


A Pocketful of Sundays
"Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come!" Is 60:1

Jerusalem lies in ruins, her citizens in exile, but Isaiah offers words of hope: there will be a time of consolation when, through God's intervention, the people will return from exile and rebuild their lives, along with their holy city. This text must surely speak to all those left homeless by unexpected disasters as well as to all those communities, world wide, which have been displaced by fire, flood, mud slides, earthquakes and war. At the same time, the text offers a call to hope to anyone who is struggling or grieving in any way; even as we are overcome by despair, God can build something new from the wreckage of our lives.


When we cannot see our path and have no idea which direction to take, to whom to turn to or which resources to avail ourselves of, then it is difficult to see God's light shine upon us. On the contrary, we often experience the absence of God's light and this intensifies our anguish. At such times, we may feel spiritually abandoned but that may be because we miss seeing glimpses of light along the way -- an unexpected phone call, an offer of help, a surprise gift, a magnificent sunrise, a moment with a cherished friend, a new bud on a special plant... Such blessings are not to be taken for granted; they mediate God's love to us, re-assuring us that indeed we are loved and that all will be well.


  • If Jesus were to ask you, "What do you want me to do for you?" what would you respond?

  • Have you ever experienced being freed from a literal or symbolic "captivity," and, if so, what was that like for you?

  • Why do you think people in the crowd were trying to silence Bartimaeus?

  • What do you imagine Bartimaeus' life was like following this life-changing encounter with Jesus?

Greetings, SBT Readers!

As I mentioned in the last issue of SBT, I had the privilege of attending the Parliament of the World's Religions last weekend -- and it did not disappoint! As expected, the world's religious leaders addressed all those issues from racism to poverty which afflict humankind and the ways the religious traditions can come together to find solutions to these problems. One common thread through all the presentations was the need to respect, protect and nurture "all sentient beings"; this wording takes "respect for life" to a new level. What emerged during the conference was the connection between our abuse of the environment and its creatures (two-legged, four legged, winged, finned, etc.) and the natural disasters that are already making the world uninhabitable for people and creatures alike. Jane Goodall, for example, explained how the excessive consumption of meat has led to the felling of rain forests, the displacement of indigenous peoples and animal species, and the emission of Co2 from cattle which is more damaging to the environment than Co2 from cars! Nearly every disaster from pandemics to landslides, from forest fires to floods can be attributed to the ways in which we humans have exploited and disrespected our planet.

This is nothing new, of course, but hearing the same point articulated across religious traditions was. As Thomas Berry pointed out in his seminal work, The Sacred Universe (2009),
“We come into being in and through the Earth. Simply put, we are Earthlings. The Earth is our origin, our nourishment, our educator, our healer, our fulfillment. At its core, even our spirituality is Earth derived. The human and the Earth are totally implicated, each in the other. If there is no spirituality in the Earth, then there is no spirituality in ourselves" (69).

Many Blessings!



As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
was sitting by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out, saying
"Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!"
Many rebuked him, telling him to be quiet, but he kept calling out all the more,
"Son of David, have pity on me!"
Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."
So they called the blind man, telling him,
"Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you."
Throwing aside his cloak, he sprang up, and came to Jesus. 
Jesus said, "What do you want me to do for you?" 
The blind man replied, "Master, I want to see." 
Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." 
Immediately, he received his sight and followed Jesus on the way.
Mk 10:46-52

As with many Gospel narratives, there is more to the story of blind Bartimaeus than meets the eye! Seeing, of course, has both its literal and its symbolic significance. There are those around Jesus -- both his friends and his enemies-- who neither see as he sees, nor see him for who he truly is. What they see is shaped by their own assumptions, prejudices, fears and aspirations; they see "darkly," without the benefit of Light. True vision is obscured by "ego needs," by the blocking out of Spirit, by ignorance, by the desperate attempt to cling to illusion no matter the evidence. There is no clarity because all is obscured by expectations, the sense of entitlement, the fear of loss, rigidity of thought, and the attachment to old paradigms. In effect, both the disciples and Jesus' enemies "see" a caricature of their own making -- not the Jesus who really stands before them. His enemies demonize him while his disciples see him as a source of material benefits.

Bartimaeus may be blind but he "sees" with the eyes of Spirit, calling on Jesus as the "son of David," a Messianic title that reflects the basis of his faith. While the disciples are vying for their places in the Kingdom, seeing Jesus as their ticket to wealth and status, Bartimaeus sees differently. He is not a grasping beggar scrounging for a few coins but a man who perceives Jesus' power to heal and forgive. His poignant cry, "have pity on me!" has to do with the whole of life and not just with his disability; he is asking for nothing less than total compassion in a world in which ailments are associated with sinfulness. How ironic that when Jesus asks James and John, "What do you want me to do for you?" they reply, "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left" (Mk 10:37). When Jesus poses the same question to Bartimaeus, his response is simply, "Master, I want to see!" (Mk 10:51). And the sight he receives is not mere physical sight but the ability to recognize the presence of the Holy One-- a gift that leads him to follow Jesus "on the way."

The healing of Bartimaeus is a story of liberation. Like the captives of Zion in Ps. 126, he is like a man "dreaming"; his tears have turned into laughter and, filled with joy and gratitude, he is ready to reap the harvest. His story parallels the story of the "remnant of Israel" whom God brings back from captivity in the north. The tender message of Jeremiah 31:7-9 holds promise for all who wish to return to the place of grace and harmony, for all who yearn for those brooks of running water which will refresh both body and spirit. May we be like people dreaming, and not those grasping for superficial favors!
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Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | |

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