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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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