28 October 2006

What do you want Jesus to do for you?

30th Sunday OT: Jeremiah 31.7-9; Hebrews 5.1-6; Mark 10.46-52
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
HTS: Catholic Social Scientists; St Paul’s Hospital; Church of the Incarnation

So, there you are. Blind. Begging on the street. Hoping that someone would drop a few coins in your lap or pitch a bite of food your way. The street seems busier than usual. Noisier. There’s an electric vibe to the air. Something blazing. Something, someone…beautiful is coming. You feel the mobbed road swell. The people push you away. Swatting at you to move back. You feel...something, someone walking along the way and you feel… excitement? Longing? Hunger? Hope? What is it? And then, just as you know the feeling, you hear someone whisper, “It is Jesus of Nazareth!” Faith! Yes, faith! That’s it. You yell over the mob, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” Those around you, those who ignore you everyday or kick at you to move to another corner or tree, those who might spare you a small meal…they shush you, tell you to be quiet. They rebuke you for your shamelessness, your eagerness to be heard, to be seen. You cry out again, “Son of David, have pity on me.” The people in the crowd grow more impatient and you feel their building violence, their reckless bodies pressing in. You’ve been a target before and do not wish to be a target again. He is gone anyway. Then, a voice: “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” Calling you? He heard you. He heard your voice. He sees you. You jump up too fast and go to Jesus. You can’t see him looking at you, but you feel his eyes on yours. In a flash, your skin is electric, your blood speeding, every bone vibrates. And you hear him say, “What do you want me to do for you?”

And so, here you are. Sitting there. Maybe hungry? Thirsty? A bit worn from a day of reading, listening, arguing? Enlivened by good company, good conversation. The way is not crowded. No one is kicking at you. You don’t need to beg. If you shouted now, called out for Jesus, we might all stare at you embarrassed, but no one would try to shut you up. At least, not at first. So, happy, free, comfortably housed, recently fed…why are you here? Are deaf and want to hear? Mute and want to speak? Dead and want to live? Bleeding? Demon possessed? Unable to walk? Cowardly? Leprous? Are you blind and want to see? So, here you are. Sitting there. And why?

Jesus draws the nearly naked man into his reach, searching in his black eyes and finding what he needs, he asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” The man’s black eyes glint a terrible trust. He says, “Master, I want to see.” Master, I want to live. Master, I want to hear, to walk, to be free, to sin no more, to serve you. Master, I want…I want to follow you. “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Jesus offers him his first chance to use his sight: go your way. You trust me. Go your way. The man’s black eyes brighten. They are brown or dark green or hazel. He sees. “Immediately he received his sight.” He takes his first chance as one who sees to make Christ’s way his own way. He follows our Lord.

The man who had black eyes sat on the roadside waiting for his sight. When Jesus walked by he had the guts to yell for his gift, to shout over the crowd, despite the crowd, in defiance of the people’s polite shock at his disreputable display. He asks for Christ’s compassion. Notice: the man did not yell, “Master, make me see!” He asks for mercy, twice. And Jesus’ disciples strengthen his heart—encourage him—by saying, “Jesus is calling you.” With this, “he threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.” Bartimaeus has a need. Jesus has his gift. Bartimaeus begs for compassion. Jesus offers him his merciful service. In answer, Bartimaeus boldly, confidently speaks aloud the name of his gift in faith and he is saved—he is healed, made whole. Free in trust, he makes a choice to follow Christ.

And so, here you all are. Sitting there. Why are you here? Are you here to proclaim your praise for the Lord, the One who delivered His people from slavery? Are you here to shout with joy that you are healed of your sins, unchained from devilish persecution? Are you here to be consoled? Guided? Delivered from ignorance and error? Weakness? Are you here for your inheritance? Let me ask you this while we asking questions: can you claim your gift? I mean, are you able to speak aloud in faith and ask for the Lord’s blessing? If Jesus found in the middle of your darkness, your most radical despair, and he said to you: what do you want me to do for you? What could you say? What would you say? Do you have the courage to name your gift in faith?

Despite the naysaying whine of our moronic media machine and despite the greedy crowds of meretricious politicians and despite the herds of obscenity obsessed cultural technicians and despite the novelty idolaters of the academy—despite this Legion of increasingly embarrassing and clattering poltergeists, can you, will you stand up with your disabilities, your flaws, your disgraces, your histories of stupidities and mistakes, stand up with your blindness, your muted tongue, and your oftentimes chilly-heart and shout over the crashing, drowning din of the professional pagans, shout to the Lord, “Lord! I need your compassion! I need your pity!” If you will, your trust will be rewarded. And you will follow him. Yes, to glory. But possibly first to ignobility, to abandonment, to a gut-wrenching cry on a cross you don’t get to choose.

If someone were to ask me why all of you are here I might say: for the fellowship, for a time and place away from the secular, for a chance to visit the Holy, to offer praise and thanksgiving, to hear the Word proclaimed and preached, to offer Christ on his altar, to see Calvary again. If I said that, all of those would be accurate but inadequate. True but not entirely satisfying. We are waiting on a roadside. But there is no elbowing crowd. We are blind or deaf or proud or disgraced or cold-hearted. But we’re here. We are the disciples on the road. And we are Bartimeamus, shouting to the Lord for our gifts! We are here for courage. We are here because Christ is calling us. We are free before Jesus. And we hear him say, “What do you want me to do for you?”

If you will claim your inheritance as a child of our Father, you will stand in the crowd and shamelessly beg for God’s mercy; you will shout for His compassion over the noise of the industry of disbelief. And when he asks what blessing you would have of him, say, “Only to follow you, Lord.” You will be beautiful then, naked and perfectly clean.


  1. Father Powell,

    Your words are always so enlightening! I recently began teaching RCIA at my parish and this last Wed., my job was the scripture readings. I was Bartimaeus...for many years. So I could not give my reflection without revealing that, and my first Confession after about 12 years. It was the first time I was able to tell that story to people without crying because every time I remember being forgiven I am just overwelmed by God's mercy and compassion. I really COULD see more clearly after that day because he really did restore my "sight".

    Now I am reading your words on this beautiful Gospel, and I'm back to crying again! Thank you for the reminder you give us all, and the exhortation to follow Jesus boldly.

  2. Anonymous11:24 AM

    you have a great gift with your writings... its gentle and well written... have a good weekend!

  3. Adoro,

    THanks for your comments. I rec'd your other email and will be replying soon.


    Thanks! I'm pleased that you find my homilies helpful.

    Fr. Philip