24 October 2021

What a weird question!

30th Sunday OT

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP


Jesus asks the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” Weird question. Does Jesus not know that this man is blind? Does he not know that blind man wants to see? Maybe he doesn't. Maybe Jesus isn't who and what he says he is and really doesn't know what this beggar wants of him. Maybe Jesus is ignorant. Maybe he's surprised when Bartimaeus calls him “son of David.” Or, maybe just maybe, Jesus, the Son of David and the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity incarnate, has a good reason for asking, “What do you want me to do for you?” Maybe he knows that the blind man needs to ask for his sight. Not need to in the psychological sense – like it's an emotional need – but need to in the spiritual sense; that is, the blind man can't be healed until he asks for and receives the healing Jesus has to give him. Can he receive what he hasn't asked for? Can he be healed of his blindness and his spiritual darkness w/o knowing he's blind and living in spiritual darkness? No, he can't. Therefore, Jesus has to ask him what he needs. Jesus asks me and you the same question: “What do you want me to do for you?” How do you answer?

You'll notice – in your daily living – much like Bartimaeus, there are a number of people around you who try to silence you. Don't bother the Lord. He's busy. Don't speak up. Don't ask for that. You're fine just the way you are. Nothing's wrong with you or how you're living. Better to be quiet and endure what Fate has given you. Jesus, rolling his eyes at the naysayers, says, “Come here. What do you need from me?” What we all need is the freedom to be who and what the Father created us to be – heirs to the Kingdom, sons and daughters of the Most High. That's the Big Need. To get to the Big Need, there are lots of Little Needs. We need to have our eyes and ears opened. We need to be freed from the delusions of the world and the noise of our anxieties. We need to be loosed from the chains of ideology, vice, inordinate passion, and hardness of heart. We need to see our disobedience clearly and our wandering minds sharply. What we need – more than anything else – is to understand and receive the Truth: that we are bound to the Christ, body and soul, to become Christ for the world. Spiritual darkness is ignorance of who and what we are. . .in Christ. Spiritual darkness is a chosen state; it's choosing to be deaf and blind to the Truth.

And so, the Lord asks us, each one of us: “What do you need me to do for you?” How do you answer? You cannot be freed from the chains you refuse to acknowledge. You cannot be set loose from the trap you refuse to see. Who or what is preventing you from being Christ in the world? There are attachments. Things. A house, a car, a job, a career, insurance. There are people. A spouse. Kids. Grandkids. Friends. Neighbors. There are worldly obligations. Community ties. Political commitments. Contracts and leases. None of these – in themselves – is blinding. None of them prevents you from being Christ in the world. Properly ordered, each can be a means of being Christ in the world. But before any one of these can be brought to bear on the task of bearing witness to Christ, you must be clear in heart and mind who comes first. Who defines who and what is important to you? Who and what decides who and what you love most? Tie yourself to this world first and most and you will pass into nothing with the world. Tie yourself to Christ – as you say you have – and you will pass into eternity. Love everyone and everything through Christ now and you will love with him forever.

So, what do you need Jesus to do for you? This is where we can hear St. Pope John Paul II say to us over and over again, “Do not be afraid!” Ask and receive. Ask for what you need and be prepared for the Lord to pour His graces on you. If you are properly disposed – opened, surrendered, grateful – you will receive whatever it is He's given you. Take these gifts and put them to work. Bartimaeus asks to see. Jesus says to him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” And what does Bartimaeus do? He follows Christ. . .along the Way of holiness and salvation. With new sight, out of the darkness of sin and death, Bartimaeus follows Christ. Will he ever be hungry again? Yes. Can he still catch a cold and suffer a toothache? Of course. Does he still need to earn a living? Absolutely. Bartimaeus still lives in the world. But he is no longer of the world. He is no longer defined by his blindness, his pain, his all-too-human limitations. He belongs to Christ. And as a possession of the Most High, he is free. He is free to be wholly, perfectly, fully exactly who he was created to be – a son, an heir, a member of the Holy Family. Ask and receive. Do not be afraid. Take courage. The Lord is calling you. He's calling you to be healed, to be Christ in the world.

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