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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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Apollonia: The persecution of Christians began in Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Philip. The first victim of the pagan mob was an old man named Metrius, who was tortured and then stoned to death. The second person who refused to worship their false idols was a Christian woman named Quinta. Her words infuriated the mob and she was scourged and stoned. 
<p>While most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions, an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.</p><p>There were many churches and altars dedicated to her. Apollonia is the patroness of dentists, and people suffering from toothache and other dental diseases often ask her intercession. She is pictured with a pair of pincers holding a tooth or with a golden tooth suspended from her necklace. St. Augustine explained her voluntary martyrdom as a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since no one is allowed to cause his or her own death.</p> American Catholic Blog We can find Christ among the despised, voiceless, and forgotten of the world. We have to move beyond that which we wish to ignore and forget about: embrace the seemingly un-embraceable, love the unlovable, and dare to know what we most fear and wish to leave unknowable.

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