Spirituality of the Readings

Keep on Asking

One summer evening, ducks, in a thicket, quacked their way across a lake and dropped into trees near the screened-in porch, where I sat making retreat. Their loud, non-stop, ever-increasing racket shocked me. Each and every citizen, it seemed, felt a duty to squawk in full voice and all at once! They were having a rollicking good time, I suppose, but what did they achieve with their babble?

I assumed they came for an evening’s rest. But could anyone rest with this earsplitting quack-talk?

There began a subtle change in the clatter, very gradual, as when applause at a concert reaches a peak and then, almost unnoticeably, crests and trails off. Each bird began to give a bit of quiet to the next until every duck-person was comfortable and calm.

Except one.

That one went on and on, cawing, absurdly, all by itself. Imagine it. Then at last a duck-mate nudged it and said, “Hey, buddy we’re all around you and we’re all safe. Zip up your beak.” And it did. There ensued the sleepy silence I thought they wanted.

I had an insight. I saw that this was teamwork.

I have always loved to be included in a team. Nobody perfect, yet everyone having a special place, keeping the rules, moving along together, and someone comforting the one who can’t take a hint. Community, I suppose we would call it today. Or family.

God confirms this in the First Reading.

I will gather the blind and the lame, … the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble.

The Responsorial Psalm tells us that mouths will be filled with laughter! “Every tear will be wiped away”!

My duck friends seemed to be symbols of these readings. Their alarums, and finally their trusting slumber maybe weren’t so different from what we ourselves do. Our loud-longing is heard by God, who is saying, “Hush, the whole flock is here. Settle down.”

Like the last duck, Blind Bartimaeus in Sunday’s Gospel couldn’t stop calling out to Jesus. “Son of David have pity on me!” The rest of the flock tried to shush him, but he kept right on, over and over.

“Son of David have pity on me!”

This blind man waded through the crowd to Jesus, who asked him the very question the squawking ducks needed: “What do you want?” But his was obvious. A blind man would want his sight back. Did Jesus miss it?

“Master, I want to see.”

Just getting his sight back would not have done it, any more than just landing in the trees did the ducks. He already had the incarnate God standing before him, and maybe this was the fullness of what he wanted to “see.”

“Your faith has saved you,” Jesus said. The man saw. And “followed him on the way.”

If Jesus asked you or me, “What do you want,” how would we answer? Is the faith that saves us hiding deep inside? Are we calling for help?

Such a call could be fulfilled this day, you know, if we let it.

What do you want?



John Foley, SJ


**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson