Are We Like Bartimaeus?

Today’s Gospel from St. Mark is one I love to pray with: Jesus’ encounter with the blind man Bartimaeus. Hearing Bartimaeus calling to him from the roadside, Jesus asks his followers to bring Bartimaeus to him. When they do, the first thing Jesus says to him is “What do you want me to do for you?”

What do you want? This is the first thing Jesus so often asked people when he met them. And He asks the same question of us. What do you want? What do you desire from me?

We are often uncomfortable talking about desires. We’ve been conditioned to be suspicious of our desires, to think that living a faithful Christian life means overcoming desires.

But to live vital and passionate lives requires that we pay serious attention to our desires when we discern how we are intended to live and love in this world. Our desires reflect the longings of our heart and point to an incompleteness in us that longs for fulfillment.

If, as Saint Iranaeus said, the glory of God is the human person fully alive, then desires are an incredibly important part of our discernment; getting in touch with our desires helps us discover what is lifegiving to us. Failing to take our desires seriously ignores (in the words of E. Edward Kinerk) “the greatest source of human vitality and passion which God has given us.”

Bartimaeus is able to name his desire.  Can you name yours when Jesus asks what you want?

But there is something else about Bartimaeus:  Look at his insistence in wanting to encounter Jesus! People are “sternly order[ing] him to be quiet,” trying to push him out of the way – saying essentially, you are not important enough to bother Jesus.  But Bartimaeus’ desire is so great he responds by crying out all the more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”

Do we display the same persistence in our desire to be close to God? Are we easily dissuaded when things are difficult? When others try to distract us?  Or do we show the same insistence as Bartimaeus that nothing will stand in the way of his encountering Jesus?

Some questions to sit with as you reflect on this passage.