A large, crowd has been following Jesus; this morning’s Gospel goes so far as to say that in fact, everyone is looking for Him. Jesus has captivated their imaginations and their hearts. And as they seek Him, His compassion flows abundantly, and He heals their sick.
I recall a friend telling me about his sister and her too taciturn husband, a reserved guy with a big job. They had been married only a few years, and she could always tell when something was worrying him. But he would just shut down. So, as they were snuggling at bedtime, she often would demand, gently, insistently: “Tell me, tell me what’s wrong, what’s bothering you.” She knew, women always know, something was up, and she wanted to be let in, to accompany him. The intimacy, the relationship demanded it, the relationship demanded it. But he couldn’t do it. And unfortunately, the marriage floundered and eventually ended; he was simply not a communicator.
Our relationship with Christ demands the same intimacy. Many of us - monks, “prayers,” so accustomed to praying - might be apt to say, “But Jesus knows; He knows everything. He knows what I need, what I want; I don’t have to say anything.” True enough, but when we say it, we get to hear it; we hear ourselves, hear our neediness, our poverty, and know our real, desperate need for Christ. This can often happen during spiritual direction or a deep conversation when we say something and are surprised by the honesty, the truth we've revealed. Prayer is relationship; there are times to be quiet, times to sit together, times to talk a blue streak to someone you love, whom you know will listen compassionately. Jesus must be at least as good as that. The people in the Gospel know what they want – desperately – and they flock to Jesus this morning to tell Him, to show Him where it hurts.
Our need, our poverty makes Christ happy, not because He wants us to feel bad, but because it allows Him to save us, to give Himself to us completely, which is what He desperately wants to do. The admission of need is an act of faith in Him who can do all. As Jesus Himself will often say, “Your faith has saved you.” Our faith will save us too, faith articulated in desire, lovingly expressed. We rush toward Jesus and having experienced His compassion, we want to follow him on the way. This is ultimately the way of the cross, the way of betrayal, the way to Jerusalem where He will be tortured and crucified. Are we ready?
What do you want? What do you want so much, you can almost taste it? Perhaps something you never dare to say. Perhaps something that just rises up in your heart, but you feel you need to talk yourself out of; perhaps something that seems even less than ideal, perhaps even tending toward sin. Never mind, I know it’s in there, nagging at me and I can’t deny it. Just say it to Him, tell Him. Go to Him, the Lord Jesus. He hears us and understands and longs to heal and purify our desiring, so that we will be able to see our deepest desire hiding beneath all that other stuff. And best of all, hopefully, eventually, we come to realize that our deepest desire is not for something, but for Someone, for Jesus who is the heart of all desire.
The expressed desire is an act of faith in Him who is above all, over all, and in all; He who surrounds us and truly likes us. When we speak our desires from the shallowest to the loftiest, we are heard, and we grow in intimacy with Christ Jesus. That alone is worth the effort. Who do you want? Who is worth everything? Everyone, as the Gospel says, everyone (whether they realize it or not) is somehow looking for Jesus, seeking the healing, wholeness, and peace that only He can give. Let us go to Him.
Photograph by Brother Brian. Meditation by one of the monks of the Abbey.