There are wishes and then there are desires. These two are not the same, are they? To wish for something may put us in the realm of imagination. “When you wish upon a star…” Whereas when we truly desire something, the goal is real, even if it is achieved only with great effort. We desire to learn, to escape, to belong. We desire a higher life, to press forward, to love. Michelangelo once prayed, “Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.” Merton has another take, “Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”
The stories of some people who interacted with Jesus are recounted today and over the last few Sundays. On the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Oct.21) we heard how James and John came to Jesus. He asked them, “What do you want me to do for you?” They desired glory, power, status as the ones who sat next to Jesus in the kingdom.
The following week, Bartimaeus, the blind man, was making himself a nuisance, trying to get Jesus’ attention. The crowd shushed him, but Bartimaeus would not be still. He cried out (sometimes that’s what we need to do). Jesus heard him and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” Again the same question. But this time, the seeker does not wish for power. He desires sight. That’s all and that’s everything: the ability to see clearly, which allows a person to touch reality in an exceptional way.
Finally, this weekend, a scribe comes to Jesus, asking for certainty as to which is the first of all commandments. To love God and one’s neighbor with everything one is and has, the scribe and Jesus agree. They took each other’s measure, and neither was found wanting. They both desired to be one with God, each in his own way.
Three people come to Jesus with their desires. Do we do that? Do we come to Jesus with our desires, confident that Jesus will take us for who we are? For Jesus, God-with-us, will do just that.
Beyond our own desires, we can ask: What does God desire? Greg Boyle S.J., the founder of Hometown Boys, and a sensitive writer, has his own answer to that question: “The desire of God’s heart is immeasurably larger than our imagination can conjure.” God desires us to come, live with, to cherish life with God. God wants us. God desires our companionship. Hard to believe, isn’t it? We make mistakes, bad choices. We are irritable and want things our way. We are weak, small in thinking and small in our actions on behalf of others. But the truth remains. God desires to be one with us. God wants us to accept each other’s races, religions and talents – to give up hating and killing those who are different from us.
The Irish writer, John O’ Donohue prays that we may “have the courage to listen to the voice of desire that disturbs us when we have settled into something safe.”
As we desire, so shall we live.
~Sister Joan Sobala
~Sister Joan Sobala