Deacon Tony reflects: What do you want me to do for you?

Every week there is a message in the Scriptures, which we can take into everyday life. Last week was about service, the week before was about attachment to possessions, the week before that was about the importance of marriage. Today we are called to listen to those on the periphery. Jesus always worked in the margins, He called sinners and tax collectors, He touched lepers, He spoke with Samaritans; even with Samaritan women; all of which irritated the Authorities, because it was not in tune with their interpretation of the law. Jesus was teaching people to be merciful as He and His Father are merciful.

In a similar way to a few weeks ago; when the disciples tried to stop little children from approaching Jesus; the people tried to silence Bartimaeus. But he would not be silenced. He persisted in crying out to Jesus for pity. His prayer was answered when Jesus stopped and called Bartimaeus towards him. Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” The reply was “Master, let me see again.”

Contrast this request with the request from James and John which we heard last week. Bartimaeus had his desire met, because it had the correct focus. Bartimaeus demonstrated faith in Jesus by asking to be healed. James and John were looking for personal glory (Mark 10:35-37). Before Bartimaeus was healed he bore witness to Jesus by calling him Master, after he was healed he bore witness to Jesus by following Him.

I read a passage1 from a former prison chaplain; Ron Dale; who regularly put this question to prisoners “What do you want Jesus to do for you?” Their replies ranged from ‘I would like a job when I leave prison’, to ‘I want my family back’ to ‘I want to start a new life free from crime’ he tells us that very rarely did they ask to be pardoned. He went on to say that “the question asked of Bartimaeus is addressed to every person, in or out of prison; and it is a question Jesus persistently asks. Only when we respond in deep honesty, and sometimes painfully, do we find, like Bartimaeus, our deepest needs are met.”

If Jesus was standing in front of you right now and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” what would you ask for? I honestly don’t know what my request would be. First of all, I would be stunned to be in the presence of God and be asked, but I don’t think I would manage to get a request out from my lips which would make sense. Bartimaeus had his request ready, his eyes were opened, [both physically and metaphorically] and he was able to follow Jesus. I think part of this is that living in the margins focusses the mind. Bartimaeus knew that being blind was what led him to destitution and what kept him there. Like the prisoners mentioned above, their time in the margins has focused their minds on what is important.

I have started reading a book which documents the conversations Pope Francis has had with Austen Ivereigh; who is a Roman Catholic journalist and biographer of Pope Francis; the book is called ‘Let us Dream – The Path to a Better Future’. In this book Pope Francis talks about how the world has been forced to think differently because of Coronavirus. He mentions the doctors, nurses, medical staff, chaplains who gave their lives while caring for others with the virus; calling them ‘the saints next door’ and contrasts this with the individualism and self-obsession which dominates some wealthier societies.

He highlights that many of these wealthier societies have a different virus which is prevalent, it is a virus of indifference, where they are only concerned with things which affect them and have little or not thought for their fellow man. We have seen evidence of this in the UK during the pandemic, with protests claiming civil liberties were being infringed because of lockdown. There are now protests in Scotland because the government there have insisted on people carrying Covid status passports which indicate whether one has been vaccinated or not.

Irrespective of our personal views or politics, we as Christians are called to do what is best for the greater good. This may challenge us; we may even resent it; but we must act; let us not be blind to who and what is around us.

The reading from Jeremiah heralds the Gospel used today, where it says I will gather them all, the blind and the lame. I will comfort them as I lead them back, I will guide them to streams of water. Jesus calls all of us to Baptism in the New Covenant; leading us to streams of water. Bartimaeus removed his cloak as if he was preparing for Baptism, he was ready to follow Jesus as he asked him to have mercy upon him. As we ask for mercy at every Mass when we say ‘Lord have mercy,’ are we ready to be granted mercy? Are we ready to follow Jesus as Bartimaeus did?

Further Reading

Let us Dream – The path to a better future, Pope Francis

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)2

CCC 547-550: Jesus performed messianic signs
CCC 1814-1816: faith, a gift of God
CCC 2734-2737: filial confidence in prayer

Please keep in your prayers

  • God’s creation, that mankind will become better stewards of this world which has been entrusted to us by God and that the Conference in Glasgow next month will be a first step to every country recognising and accepting their responsibilities towards protecting the world.
  • Those who worked tirelessly to defeat the assisted dying Bill in the House of Lords on Friday.
  • Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
  • All Missionaries and the people they serve, may they get the financial, practical and prayer support they need.
  • The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
  • A renewed love of praying the Rosary as we are now in the month dedicated to the Rosary.
  • The four children being baptised this weekend in St Bede’s Church; Amelia, Elias, Noah and Anna; may their parents and godparents be great role models of a Christian life and may they be raised in loving, Spirit filled homes.
  • The listening stage of the 16th Synod of Bishops which is entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission” that all Catholics will take part.

1 Ron Dale, Windows on Mark (Kevin Mayhew Ltd, Stowmarket, 1999)199

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (