One way to reflect on a passage of scripture is to read it with this question at heart:
“What am I feeling, wanting, and desiring as I reflect on this text?”
We often engage scripture with our minds, but perhaps less often with our hearts.
A while back, I took some time to ask this question as I reflected on the story of Bartimaeus who was blind and cried out to Jesus for healing in Mark 10:46-52:
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
At first reading, Bartimaeus’ passionate desire for the mercy of Jesus impresses me. He shouts over the many who rebuke him and tell him that he is wasting Jesus’ time. Jesus asks him the big question: “What do you want me to do for you?”
How would I answer Jesus if He were to ask me this question today? What do I really want from Him? Do I have the courage of a Bartimaeus to ignore what others think, and seek Jesus with resolve for what I deeply and truly want?
The crowd who would shout Bart (and me) down is as fickle as the wind. They don’t know Jesus very well. First, they chew Bart out for asking Jesus to have mercy on him. Then, when Jesus calls for him, they are nothing but encouraging and affirming. Why would I let myself be swayed by the crowd when the crowd doesn’t even know what it wants? May the volume level of holy desire be louder in me than the volume of anxiety or fear.
(I remember writing these words during an eight-day Ignatian retreat in the Boston area a few years ago. I had been walking in the forested area behind the retreat center, asking myself what I really wanted from Jesus. I think what I wanted most then, as now, was a deeper confidence in the love of the Father for me just as I am. I still want to rely on His absolute love for the yet-unimproved me. Growth and transformation will be a fruit of His love, and not a way to earn His favor.)
How easily am I derailed by the voice of the crowd, by the insinuations of “they” who tell me to give up and give in?