Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jesus Is Praying For Us

Whom do you turn to when you are in trouble? Who helps you when everything else you have tried fails? Who comforts you when nothing seems to be going right?

How often is it Jesus that you turn to? Is it your first thought to lift up your hands in prayer at the moment you find yourself in need? If not, why not?

Over the past few Sundays, we have been reading from the letter to the Hebrews. In this beautiful book of the New Testament, Jesus is described as the High Priest who has ascended into Heaven and is offering prayers for us constantly at the throne of God.

What a comforting thought it is that Jesus is in Heaven praying for us. As He promised His disciples at the Last Supper, He has not left us orphans. Rather He has us constantly in mind as He enjoys the glory of His heavenly kingdom. Therefore, He is the first one we should turn to in our need.

Sometimes we are tempted to think that because Jesus is God and never sinned He could not possibly understand our human situation. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is human in every way that we are. He lived a totally human life including having a body with needs and temptations. The fact that He never sinned does not make Him less sympathetic to our weakness but more so. What does sin do? It makes us selfish. It makes us center on ourselves and forget the needs of others. Because Jesus never sinned, He is free to concern Himself with us and our needs. As we see in the gospels, no one who ever lived was as sensitive to the stigma of the outcast, the pain of the sick and the anguish of the sinner. Therefore, however small or insignificant our needs may seem, we can be sure that He knows what we need before we even ask. We can approach Him with confidence knowing that He cares for us.

Also, the fact that Jesus is the eternal Son of God does not keep Him from caring about our needs. We may be tempted to think that with the state of the world He has more important concerns than ours. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. Because Jesus is God, there is no limit to what He is able to do. He is everywhere. At every moment, He is aware of each and every one of the seven billion people on earth. He does not have to stop thinking about one person to pay attention to someone else. He keeps all of us in mind constantly. He is never too busy for us, even though so often we are too busy for Him. We can be confident that when we turn to Him He will be waiting for us saying, “What took you so long?”

This was the experience of so many people in the gospels who sought Jesus out for healing. When they saw the huge crowds that were always pressing in on Jesus, they could have felt discouraged. They could have thought that there was no way that they could possibly reach Him through so many people. Or they may have thought that there were so many others in need of healing that Jesus could not possibly concern Himself with them. But they knew they had nowhere else to turn and so they did whatever was necessary to reach Him.

Today’s gospel - the healing of Bartimaeus - is a beautiful example. When this blind beggar hears that it is Jesus who is passing by, he wastes no time crying out to Him. The crowds tell Him to be quiet, that Jesus does not care about a worthless beggar like Him, but He refuses to listen. He cries out even louder over the rebukes of the crowd. Jesus hears Him - in fact, He already knew Him - and grants the desire of his heart, to be able to see.

We can be assured that Jesus hears us when we call out to Him and that He will grant us the desires of our heart.

After Jesus heals Bartimaeus, He tells him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” In the next sentence we read that the way he chose was the way of Jesus: “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.” Bartimaeus had a choice to make. He could choose his own way, remaining in Jericho and maybe even continuing to beg. Or he could follow Jesus. He chose to follow Jesus on the way leading to Jerusalem and to Calvary.

When Jesus answers our prayers it is for one reason - so that we may be freer to follow Him on the way, so that we can see more clearly the steps we need to take to follow in His footsteps. If Jesus hears us, then we need to hear the cries of the poor around us. If Jesus reaches out to pick us up, then we need to pick up the weak who surround us. If He gives us new life, it is so that we can share in His suffering and death. We are always to free to “go our way”, but we will never be so free or so happy as we are when we decide to follow Jesus on His way.

We have a great High Priest, Jesus Christ, who stands before the Father’s throne pleading for each of us. He knows our needs. He sees them even more clearly than we do. Therefore, we can always approach Him with confidence knowing that we are heard and that He will answer. We approach Him today at this altar where He offers us His Body and Blood to strengthen us and heal us. Let us reach out to him, ignoring the crowd of voices in our heads telling us that we are not worthy, that our concerns are not important or that it is all too good to be true. Jesus is here. Let us do whatever is necessary to call out to Him and experience all that He has to offer us.

(this article appeared in Connect!)

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