Mark 10:46-52 Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Reflection When Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” I want to ask Jesus, “Why are you asking a blind man what he wants? Isn’t it obvious?” In “The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything,” the theologian James Martin, S.J. suggests, “Jesus was helping the blind man identify his desire and to be clear about it.” (p 58) You see, it is when we notice and name the deepest desire of our hearts that we discover God’s desire for us.
Martin explains, desire gets a bad rap in many Christian circles, mostly because we think of it only in terms of sex and consumerism. But, sex is clearly one of our greatest gifts because “without it, where would we be?” The desire to consume food, shelter and clothing is our natural desire to survive. Desire is a primary way in which God speaks to us. Of course we are not talking about superficial or inordinate desires for a perfect home, a showier car, more power, more privilege, another cruise… you fill in the blank.
When Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” he is asking, “What is the deepest desire of your heart?” Sitting by the roadside, Bartimaeus has had plenty of time to think about it, and when someone sitting near him nudges him, “Jesus is calling you,” he does not hesitate to declare his desire, “I want to see again.” When Jesus says to him, “Go; your faith has made you well,” he is inviting Bartimaeus “out of his distress into a broad place with no constraint.” Accepting the invitation, Bartimaeus throws off the cloak of his past, leaps up, and changes the course of his life, no longer sitting on the sideline of life but immediately following Jesus on the way.
A key to discerning God’s desire for us is noticing and naming our desires. Our deepest desires help us to admit God’s desire for us.
A pivotal moment in my life occurred following a week long intensive, training future spiritual directors, when my colleague and dear friend looked me straight in the eye and asked, “What is your deepest desire, what do you want to do with your life?” I can still feel the sinking sense in my stomach knowing I would have to speak aloud the words I had denied for decades. “I want to be a priest.” My friend’s response, “Well, it is about time you said it.”
After nine years sitting in darkness, the voice of my friend broke through the whirlwind of my self-absorbed suffering, inviting me to notice and name the deepest desire of my heart. In so doing I joined Bartimaeus in noticing and naming our desires. Finally I could say out loud, “Although there is no way I can do this thing called priesthood (frankly it terrifies me), I know that God can do all things, and that no purpose of God’s can be thwarted.” Within the month I left my home to begin the journey toward priesthood.
Now, let me ask you, what is the deepest desire of your heart?
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