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Bible Reflections View Comments

What Do We Really Want?
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012
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In today’s Gospel, when Jesus encounters the blind beggar Bartimaeus, he asks him the question he asks nearly everyone he meets: “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus answers unhesitatingly: “I want to see.”

How often are we this clear on what we want? It’s difficult to have such a single-hearted focus on our needs and desires. Even in the secular world, people who are driven by a single goal stand out from the crowd. Most of us go through the day chasing one distraction after another. It’s so common we even have a shorthand term for it: “Shiny new!”

In the passage that comes immediately before this one in Mark’s Gospel, James and John were asking Jesus for places of glory at his right and left when he came into his kingdom. We might say that they were quite sure of what they wanted. But Jesus did not—could not—grant their request. It might be what they wanted, but it was not what they needed.

We might rattle off a list of things that we want or think we need, but we know most of them to be too petty or materialistic to ask Jesus to get them for us. Even though we joke about praying to win the lottery, by the time we’re adults we know at least on some level that God isn’t like Santa Claus or a genie in a bottle. But do we go too far and also discount God’s promise to give us life to the full?

Sometimes the problem is that we settle for what we have. We’re content with the status quo. We’re not willing to do what it takes to make a change, no matter how much that change will move us closer to our dreams and our deepest desires. Going after what we really want can be risky. We’re afraid to try because we’re afraid to fail.

Even if we do know what we want but we let other people’s expectations keep us from even letting ourselves admit it. The crowds around the blind beggar in the Gospel try to keep him from crying out to Jesus. But he only called all the louder. When we know what we want, we need to work toward that goal even though other people find our focus annoying, even disturbing. It’s a hard lesson to learn that others don’t always want—or even know—what’s best for us.

If Jesus said to you today, “What do you want me to do for you?” what would you answer? Have you taken time lately to ask yourself what your deepest, most genuine desires are? When we’re sick, when we’re genuinely hungry, when we desperately need sleep, we become very focused on what it is that we need. But what about when those needs are met, when we are well and well-fed? What is our driving passion then? What are our dreams?

Mark tells us that once the beggar’s sight was restored, he immediately followed Jesus up the road. Being given his physical sight also gave him the spiritual insight he needed to become a disciple of Jesus. At the heart of discipleship is a focus on Jesus that keeps us moving with him down the road. Jesus made clear that the journey would be hard and that the cross stands at the end of it. But he promised that it would be worth the struggle.

We need to discover what we most need, to fulfill God’s plan for our lives. For the blind beggar, it was his sight. What is it for you?


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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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