Road to Krakow: What do you want me to do for you?

(Reflection #1 in a series of spiritual reflections leading up to World Youth Day in Krakow, July 2016)

There is a striking feature common to many of the healing encounters Jesus has with the sick, lame and blind. In these, the needy are able to express clearly and unambiguously what they want Jesus to do for them.

We see this is the meeting of Jesus with the blind beggar Bartimaeus. Jesus was making His way out of Jericho with his disciples. Bartimaeus, who was sitting by the side of the road, heard the crowd approaching. On learning that it was Jesus who was passing by, Bartimaeus seized his opportunity.

Bartimaeus began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him so that he would be silent.
But all the more he cried out, “Son of David, have pity on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “call him”.
So they called the blind man: “Cheer up! Get up! He is calling you.”
He threw aside his garment, jumped up and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man answered, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
And Jesus said to him, “go, your faith has healed you.”
Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. (Mk 10:47-52)

What do you want me to do for you? When Bartimaeus heard Jesus’ question he didn’t hesitate. This point must be recognized: before Jesus would work in Bartimaeus’ life, He needed the man to express what he wanted from Him.

Do we know what we want Jesus to do for us?

At World Youth Day we will find ourselves in the position of Bartimaeus. We will encounter Jesus in the midst of a crowd. He will pass by. He wants to work in our life as He did in Bartimeus’. There is a catch, though. We need to know specifically what we want Jesus to do for us. We can forget this step. Since our need can be hard to point a finger, we end up asking Jesus for help in a general way or not at all.

What do you want me to do for you?

Take some time to search your heart in order to discover what it is you want to ask Jesus to do for you during your World Youth Day pilgrimage. You can start by brainstorming a list and then narrow it down until you are left will one point. How can Jesus help us if we do not know what we want Him to do for us?

Pope Francis promotes Confession during Year of Mercy

A few days ago, on February 5th, a unique event occurred at St. Peter’s Basilica. As part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the relics of St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold Mandic were processed into the Basilica where they will remain for several days to be visited by pilgrims. The presence of these two saints, both of whom are famous for their devotion to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is meant to be a powerful reminder of the incredible gift God offers us in this Sacrament. Padre Pio would often spend 10 - 15 hours a day hearing confessions. In this way, Pope Francis explained, Padre Pio spread “the perfume of the forgiveness of the Lord” and became “a caress of the living Father, who heals the wounds of sin and refreshes the heart with peace”.
For many, however, going to confession can be a difficult experience. In his recently released book length interview called “The Name of God is Mercy”, Pope Francis provides some encouragement. He explains how the eastern form of the Sacrament of Reconciliation strikes him. In this, the confessor welcomes the penitent by putting his stole over the penitent’s head and an arm around his shoulder, as if embracing the penitent. Pope Francis says that this “is a physical representation of acceptance and mercy”. Rather than feeling afraid of judgment when we approach the confessional, we should imagine our heavenly Father embracing us in the same way.

Pope Francis acknowledges that many wonder why they simply cannot ask God for forgiveness directly. Why is it necessary to confess our sins to a priest? I found his answer helpful. Pope Francis explained that “if you are not capable of talking to your brother about your mistakes, you can be sure that you can’t talk about them with God either, and therefore you end up confessing into a mirror, to yourself. We are social beings and forgiveness has a social implication; my sin wounds mankind, my brothers and sisters, society as a whole. Confessing to a priest is a way of putting my life into the hands and heart of someone else, someone who in that moment acts in the name of Jesus.”

Towards the end of the book, the interviewer asks Pope Francis the following question: “What are the most important things that a believer should do during the Holy Year of Mercy?” The Pope’s response was to the point. The believer should “open up to the mercy of God, open up his heart and himself, and allow Jesus to come toward him by approaching the confessional with Faith. And he should try to be merciful with other.” As we begin Lent, let us follow the Pope’s advice.