What do you want God to do for you?

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Francis D. Alvarez S.J. (The Philippine Star) - October 25, 2015 - 10:00am

This Sunday, I would like to invite you to a meditative journey through our Gospel. You do not have to reflect with me from start to finish. If a particular point strikes you, stop. Stay there and spend time just talking things out with the Lord.

Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging. Hearing that Jesus was coming, he began to shout, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!” The crowd around Jesus rebuked Bartimaeus and told him to be silent. But Bartimaeus cried out all the more, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!”

When others question our faith or try to silence us about our beliefs, do we just shut up? Or do we keep on proclaiming and witnessing all the more? What is more difficult is when life itself seems to rebuke us and challenge our faith. In those times, do we just retreat to a corner and quietly sulk? When God seems not to hear our prayers or pay any attention to us no matter how loud we cry out, can we still continue calling on Jesus? When those who cannot care less about God have everything for going for them while we who struggle to live out our faith seem to have nothing to show for it, can we actually shout louder, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me”?

Jesus called Bartimaeus, and hearing this, the blind man threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and approached Jesus.

Bartimaeus was a beggar. He did not have much aside from his cloak, but when Jesus called him, he was ready to leave what little he had behind. Imagine that whatever alms he had received – coins, pieces of bread or fish – were gathered on that cloak. But all this, Bartimaeus was willing to throw aside. Can we do the same when we hear Jesus call us? Or like a young St. Augustine, will we bargain with God and say “Give me chastity, but not yet”? Will we tell God, “I will follow you, but in my own time and on my own terms”? How can we be ready to spring up and hand everything over at the slightest hint from God?

God always wants to bless us with his grace. But we must meet his grace with our freedom. The older St. Augustine said, “God who created us without us will not save us without us.” The Lord’s blessings are always gifts, but many of them are, at the same time, tasks. He wants to give, but we must be willing to let go of what we already clutch tightly in our hands. If we cannot open our hands to let go, we will also never be able to open them to receive. 

Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”

This is actually one of the hardest questions to answer in life: What do you want God to do for you? Maybe for Bartimaeus, the answer was obvious, but this is not always the case for us. Even when we think we know what we want Jesus to do for us, we should rethink our answers. Many times, what we think we want the Lord to do for us is not what we really need him to do for us.

What do you want God to do for you? Try to answer that question now. Once you come up with an answer, imagine God asking you, “And then, after that, what?” To your next reply, imagine God asking you again, “And after that, what?” As long as there is still an after-that-what, then you have not yet arrived at what you really need to ask from God.

As a hospital chaplain, I once visited a man with stage 4 cancer. His illness though had not advanced as far his wisdom. After being anointed, he asked me, “Do you know what I prayed for, Father?” Almost automatically, I said what almost every other patient I knew prayed for: “Healing.” But the man said no. He told me, “Even if I get healed, that will not last. One day, I will still die. I prayed for the strength and the humility to ask for the forgiveness of my family. I prayed for them, too, that they may have the generosity and the love to forgive me. Now, that will last. That I will take even beyond the grave.”

What do you want God to do for you? Ask for something that will last longer than this life. Ask for the grace to know what you truly need.

The blind Bartimaeus said to Jesus, “Master, I want to see.” The Lord told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately, Bartimaeus received his sight and followed Jesus on the way.

Jesus told Bartimaeus, “Go your way.” But Bartimaeus did not go his way. Instead, he followed Jesus on the way. He went Jesus’ way. But in the Gospel scenes shortly before this, Jesus had just repeated (three times in fact) that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed. If this is Jesus’ way, who in his or her right mind would want to follow?

But maybe, Bartimaeus’ following Jesus’ way is the sign that the blind man had indeed received his sight. He now could truly see. He knew what he wanted God to do for him. He knew what he needed. And for this, he was willing to throw everything aside.

Can we follow Jesus’ way if it means suffering? Do we know what we want God to do for us? Do we know what we need God to do for us? Do we have the faith to throw everything aside for this? If we are not yet strong enough, let us learn again from the Bartimaeus we met in the beginning of our Gospel today. Let us keep on calling out to Jesus for help. Let our weakness make us shout all the more, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!”

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