The Question

There’s a story in the Gospel that I seem to always come back to in my readings and study.  I wouldn’t exactly call it a favorite of mine because, in a way, it makes me a bit uncomfortable.  But over the years I’ve found that if something in Sacred Scripture makes you uncomfortable, you need to pay attention.  Sometimes those passages that trouble or confound us are exactly the ones that God most wants us to hear and understand.  In my case, one of these troublesome passages is the story of Bartimaeus which St. Mark describes in the tenth chapter of his Gospel.  We see Jesus and the Apostles on the journey to Jerusalem, with a large crowd following them.  Christ makes it clear that He is going there to be jailed and killed and that He will rise again on the third day.  James and John are intrigued and they ask Jesus to let them sit beside Him in heaven.  He explains to them that His will for them all is that they serve one another, rather than seek personal authority or power.  As they are leaving the city of Jericho, they pass by Bartimaeus, a blind beggar sitting at the side of the road.  When Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is nearby, he cries out to Him: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me” (Mark 10:42).  Many in the crowd rebuke him, telling him to be quiet, but he keeps calling to Jesus.  Christ tells the crowd to let Bartimaeus come to Him, which he does.  When he gets to Jesus, the Lord asks him: “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51).

And that’s the question from my Savior that never fails to astound me.  Because I know Jesus is asking me the same question.  “Judy, what do you want me to do for you?” The Creator of the universe is stopping by to see me, in the midst of all my sin to ask me if He can be my servant.  He wants to stop everything and listen to my pleading voice.  And what do I say to Him?  What do I want from Jesus? This is one of the most radical and countercultural truths of our Christian faith:  God wants us to tell Him what we want from Him.  On the way to His Passion, He wants us to ask even more of Him.  Within sight of His death on a Cross, for our sins, He stops to ask, “What do you want Me to do for you?” What love!  What absolute Love He has for us!  To be loved by Love Himself.  God comes to us to ask to be our servant and to offer Himself for our needs.  His love is all-consuming and is most ultimately consumated on His Holy Cross, where He gives everything for you and for me.

How do we answer Christ’s heart-stopping question?  For we know that in our answer we’ll reveal the truth of our relationship with Him.  Like John and James, do we desire honor and glory?  Do we want a bigger house, a better job, more influence, more recognition?  Do we desire forgiveness?  Like Bartimaeus, do we seek to be set free from darkness?  Or do we fear God so much that we can’t imagine asking Him for anything?  Will our answer to His question be to ask something for someone else?  Will we reveal love in our hearts in our unselfish plea?  What is our deepest desire, our most heartfelt yearning:?  A cure?  A vision?  A favor?

We can find an answer in Bartimaeus himself.  He casts himself on Christ’s great mercy and cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.”  He asks to be set free, “I want to see.”  Christ assures him that his faith has saved him.  And then we read, “Immediately he received his sight and followed Him on the way”(Mark 10:52).  Isn’t this what happens when we approach the mercy of God in the Sacrament of Confession?  We cast ourselves on Jesus’ mercy and ask Him to set us free from our sins, from our blindness.  And God never fails.  Our faith saves us, we get up, and we follow Him.  Like Bartimaeus, we’ve been set free by our Servant Savior.  Never doubt God’s great love for you and His desire to set you free from your sin, whatever it might be.  Get up and follow Him.

Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin, all hope consists in confession; in confession there is a chance for mercy.

                           St. Isidore of Seville

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