The Personalist Project

That was the question Christ asked Bartimeas, the blind man, before healing him. Our new pastor, Fr. Scott Hahn (no, not THAT Scott Hahn, as he has to explain over and over), showed me an angle of it I'd never thought of before. 

The passage comes at the tail end of a series of people asking Jesus for all kinds of things. James and John wanted to sit on his right and on his left. The rich young man wanted a list of actions that would guarantee salvation. The pharisees wanted a sign. Everybody wanted something. 

The blind man could have asked for anything, but he asked for the one thing he needed in order to follow Jesus. You can't follow somebody you can't see. 

So, Fr. Scott asked, what if Christ appeared and asked one of us, "What do you want me to do for you?" I realized I'd be inclined to say "Find a buyer for our house," or "Clean this kitchen," or "Make these kids stop bickering." Something shortsighted like that.

But it was also a privileged moment, because my eyes were opened for a second to the utter silliness of going through life consumed by anxiety about perishable things--the kind of things nobody on their deathbed would give a second thought to. They're the kinds of troubles and obstacles and tasks I've already run into and overcome, or not, a million times in the last half-century. Every one seemed insurmountable at the time, and every one--it's clear to me even now---was way, way less earthshaking than it seemed.

It's easy to act like the man in the story who, given three wishes, wished for sausages, and then, in annoyance at his wife's scolding, wished them stuck to her nose, and then was forced to use up his third chance by wishing them off again.

What I really want (whether I know it or not) is not any change of circumstances at all, but a Person. I remember Sister Ann Shields making the same point once: when you're interceding for somebody, the only kind of intercession that makes sense is to ask that they be brought closer to God. Of course, it's fine to be more specific. But however urgent and legitimate the crisis, however anxious we are for answers to prayers like Please find him a job," "Please get her off drugs" or "Please heal him of this terrifying disease," we wouldn't really want even those wishes granted at the cost of distance from God. 

If God is the Way, the Truth, and the Life--if the Good, the True, and the Beautiful meet in Him--then a Person is the most "objective" reality there is. We're so used to mistaking subjectivity with subjectivism, and acting as if what goes on within a person must be lacking in reality, that this might sound odd. 

But that's just because we're blind.

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