Sunday, October 28, 2018

Asking and Getting

October 28, 2018 –– 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 10:46–52
Asking and Getting

Today’s Gospel tells the story of a man asking Jesus for something. Asking Jesus for something today takes us to the subject of prayer, and I think a lot of people approach prayer with the theological sophistication of Huckleberry Finn:

Then Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing came of it. She told me to pray everyday, and whatever I asked for I would get it. But it warn't so. I tried it. Once I got a fish-line, but no hooks. I tried for the hooks three or four times, but somehow I couldn't make it work. I asked Miss Watson to try for me, but she said I was a fool.  She never told me why, and I couldn't make it out no way. 

Haven't there been times when we’ve all felt that way? You asked God, praying quite sincerely for something, and it didn't happen. So prayer becomes a big mystery. Like Huck Finn, we “[can’t] make it out no way.”

The blind man in today’s Gospel asks Jesus for what he wants. Bartimaeus kept asking. Others discouraged him. He kept asking. This man knew he was blind, and he believed Jesus could do something about it. He surely thought, “This is my one chance to turn everything around,” and so he kept calling out all the more.

James tells us in his letter: You do not have, because you do not ask (4:2b). Sometimes we do ask, but God does not give us what we ask.... for our own good. James goes on to say: You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (4:3). Yet in another place Jesus says: Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (Matt 7:7,8).

We need to know that prayer is not merely “asking God for something.” Prayer is not a formula to learn and master. Prayer and true desire are intimately connected. How often do we really ask Jesus for our heart’s desire? When we ask for something half-heartedly, we are not asking out of desire. When we ask, but do not continue to ask, are we not showing that we are not desperate? And if we are passionate, is it for the right things?

All of us are passionate about something. It can be anything from a sports obsession to material possessions to politics to.... knowing God. When we are passionate about something, others close to us know it. What are we passionate about? How often do we ask Jesus for our heart’s desire?

What are we to do? First, let’s understand that the focus of prayer is God himself. Jesus told his followers to seek first the kingdom of God, and other things will be given as well. Bartimaeus was healed of his blindness, but another phrase follows: he received his sight and followed [Jesus]. If we turn again and again and again to the Lord––if we follow Jesus, our passions will more and more begin to match his desires for us. Then our prayers will be answered in amazing ways. Jesus also said: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you (Jn 15:7).

May the Lord give us hearts that are passionate for him, so that we desire the things he so graciously wants to give us. And then let’s ask, because our Heavenly Father loves to hear from his children.

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