You Do Not Know What You Are Asking


I was recently struck by a question in the Gospel when James and John, the Sons of Zebedee ask Jesus to sit, one at his right and one at his left when he comes in glory. What stopped me was Jesus' statement: "You do not know what you are asking." Of course Jesus was warning them that if they want glory they need to be ready to carry the cross. 

One of the many things I love about Jesus is that he gets humanity. He gets us. He understands us at the core. He understands our shortsightedness and knows that we have slightly twisted expectations. 

I can imagine him looking at James and John and saying: Do you really know what you are asking for? Do you know what you are getting yourselves into? The pain and suffering? Do you really want that?

At the age of 33, I have made a profound discovery. I realised that most of us, starting with me and especially young people, don't know what we really want. And when we do know what we want our expectations are often incorrect. Our imaginations deceives us. Therefore, Jesus is right; we don't realize the consequences of what we are asking for. 

Our desperation to run away from the present, from the now, makes us desperate to cling to new dreams and new ideas because the now is not always pleasant, it carries years of pain. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the new at all. The problem is when we give the new a perfect makeover, when in reality things are far from perfect. 

This may be in the form of a new job, new house, new car, new friend, new game, new girl friend, new country or new wife or husband! We look for these things to become "Messiahs" (Saviours) coming to save us from the NOW and so we don't see them for what they really are. 

Let me give you some examples of what I'm talking about.

How many times have we prayed and asked for a career change or a job change? University or TAFE course? We thought this will be the great fix, but when our request is granted, we realize in the end it was not quite what we expected. We feel the same as before, if not worse. To take a step further, how many times have we wanted to rush a relationship and move to marriage and realize later that marriage isn't quite what we expected? Or even worse, how many times have we thought that being married to someone else will fix all our problems?

So we ask, and receive. But with time the same feeling comes back. We are left emptier that before, desperate for a newer escape.

There is a great quote by St Teresa of Avila which touches at the heart of what I mean. Teresa says: "There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers."

I am sorry if I am sounding judgmental or radical. But I too struggle with these things. I think we all do. My sense of judgement about the future is betrayed because of what I want out of the present. What an illusion I am living?

I certainly don't mean we should not go for a new job or relationship, a new house or a new car. These things are good, they are important but they are not Messiahs. 

Let us realise that nothing we ask or want other than Christ will fill all the hungers of our hearts. Nothing will. This emptiness is for Christ alone.

Is this not what the resurrection is about? That Christ is saying to us that in the midst of the anxiety and hurt that the present carries, I come to bring Good News. I am present in your PRESENT. Stay with me so I can stay with you! Stay with me now so you can rise with me!

Nehme is a former student of a Marist Primary School in Mount-Lebanon. He grew up in the war and spent a considerable part of his childhood adjusting to the sound of bombs, sometimes taking refuge in a shelter in the basement of his building. He migrated to Australia, studied Commerce at Sydney Uni and later chose to become a Teacher. He enjoys reading; playing and watching sport. He is a St George Dragons supporter and enjoys watching the boring game of Cricket. Nehme has a passion for the Gospel and loves connecting with young people. He is currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Theology and is the National Coordinator for Marist Youth Ministry.