Posts Tagged ‘the will to be well’

MARK 12:28-34

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

“Love God with all that you are,” Jesus said, “and love your neighbor with the same care with which you love yourself”: these are the first and second greatest commandments in the Law. Again, these phrases were not new, and even the pairing of the two had a history before Jesus. What was different here, however, had to do with his conspicuous interpretation of what these mean and how they are related. (And this is where Jesus came into conflict with the lawyers of his day.)

So when the scribe affirmed Jesus in his answer to the question of the Law’s greatest commandment, Jesus congratulated him with a statement that apparently had some disturbing ambiguity about it: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Not far? Yes, very close. But not yet inside. What was missing? It may be that what was missing was action, and behind that the decision to act, and beneath even that the deeper desire that drives our human journey godward.

This is the same will to be well that Jesus listened for in blind Bartimaeus. Without this will engaged, the most accurate and inspired insights into the nature of existence and the meaning of life are only “good answers,” but not saving truths. To enter the kingdom of God you must want it more than anything else, then you must decide to take action, and finally you must act. You take the risk, make the leap, and the story of your life comes true.

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MARK 10:46-52

46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Society saw no value in the likes of Bartimaeus, except perhaps as a convenient “drop box” for middle-class charity – providing the chance to pay off some of the guilty neglect and self-centered ambition with a few bucks. When he cried out for Jesus, the crowd was offended that he should want anything more than they had already been generous enough to give him (again, largely for themselves).

Beggars are not to have a voice; they are not to be noticed. Certainly it is unacceptable that they should become a nuisance. “Shut up, you damned rag!” they cursed. “Don’t you dare ask for more than you deserve!” But Bartimaeus persisted, even increasing his volume and pitch: “Jesus! Please have mercy on me!” And when Jesus called for him, the annoyed crowd said to the blind man in a scolding tone, “Lucky dog. Don’t blow this one.”

When Bartimaeus arrived at the place where Jesus was, he was confronted with a question that is critical to the advance of the spiritual life: “What do you want me to do for you?” The question of want (or longing, aspiration, or spiritual hunger) brings the matter of salvation to a profoundly personal focus.

The return path to the heart of God has been cleared of such impediments as penance payments or orthodox procedures, but progress down that path needs to be a voluntary effort – an ongoing act of decision and will – on the part of the one seeking salvation. Jesus’ question to Bartimaeus was his invitation to name precisely that for which he was yearning most deeply in his life. Once named, Bartimaeus’ own faith in its possibility became the effective agency for its realization.