Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 30B
“There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” This one recurring statement has forever plagued my life as a student. “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” Countless professors and teachers, speakers and presenters, have been repeating this for longer than I have been around, but when I was in class or at a talk, this reassurance only seemed to give rise to the same few people holding up the rest of the class or audience, with what could only be called, from my perspective, stupid questions. The worst was when someone would ask a question, even though you could clearly tell that he already knew the answer.
So what do we make of the question asked by Jesus in the Gospel today? He asks the blind beggar Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Now, for someone who has a reputation and lots of experience as a healer and worker of miracles, and who just watched this blind beggar stumble up to him, shouldn’t it already be clear to Jesus what the blind man wants him to do? And as the Son of God, Jesus knew the hearts and minds of those around him. So what could be more obvious to Jesus than what Bartimaeus is going to ask for?
Why, when we pray, does God want us to ask for what He already knows we need or want? What is the point of prayer? When we pray, are we trying to change God’s mind, to bring Him over to our way of thinking, to convince Him to give us what we want but what He has so far withheld from us? When we pray, are we trying to change God? Or do we begin from the conviction of faith, that God is already on our side, that He already loves us—infinitely more than we could ever love ourselves—that He is already constantly providing us with life, with breath, and with every good gift needed for our salvation and eternal life with Him? Are we convinced that His love for us and His stance toward us will never change, and that prayer is meant instead to change us, to transform our hearts and minds to God’s way of thinking and to God’s will for our lives, which, no matter how difficult it may seem, is always greater and more wonderful than anything we could ever ask or imagine?
God knows what we need before we ask, before we even recognize our own need. But God wants a relationship with us, a friendship, a dialogue with us. God wants our desires to meet His desire for us. Prayer helps us to exercise our desires, to articulate them, to let them grow, so that we can even shout them out, with all our heart and with perseverance as Bartimaeus called out for Jesus. Now Jesus could have healed Bartimaeus from a distance, with just a thought or a word, as He healed the servant of the Centurion without entering under his roof. Jesus could have healed Bartimaeus without letting Bartimaeus realize that it was Jesus who healed him. So is God just hungry to get the credit for the gifts that He gives to us? He has us name our desires in prayer so that we will recognize when He does answer us and provide for us?
Rather, God knows that no matter what else we desire or ask for or receive from Him, no matter what miracles or healings or gifts or blessings, we will never be truly happy or at rest until we can desire and receive His gift of Himself. Jesus knows that even if Bartimaeus has his sight restored, even if God solves all our problems and answers all our prayers, we will never be truly happy until, as we hear at the very end of today’s Gospel, until we are able to follow Jesus on the way. Even to follow Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, where He will suffer and die out of love for us. Today at this Mass, and at every Mass, we follow Jesus to the pouring out of His Life and Blood for us. Our prayers are answered with the Gift of His very Self. May our desire for God meet His desire for us in this wonderful exchange, that even in this world, we may truly live, and live forever in the world to come.