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Second time lucky? - Wednesday Gospel Reflection

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Today's gospel (Mark 8:22-26) is rather perplexing: it is the only miracle account in which the healing is not initially completely effective, and it is not immediately clear what we are supposed to make of this. In fact, some suggest that it is for this very reason that Matthew and Luke omit this event from their gospels.

I don’t have a solution, but what I'd like to propose is that this brief healing account points to some fundamental truths about the Christian life in general.

The blind man is brought to Jesus by some unknown third persons and in this we see that, for most of us, we are first brought to Jesus by family and friends. This is most obvious with infant baptism, but also tends to be the case with those who come to the Faith later in life.

However, there comes a time, even as part of community of believers, when we must make a definitve choice for ourselves, and this is paralleled in Christ's taking hold of the hand of the blind man and walking with him outside of the village.

In the first stage of the healing, with spittle and the laying on of hands, we have an image of baptism and the washing away of sins, and a demonstration of how the Incarnate Word works through His material creation in leading us to our salvation. Just as the saving Word was made manifest in history so too in the sacraments we see material signs of the real graces which are being worked in us.

Yet the bringing to fruition of the salvation won for us is the work of a lifetime, not a moment in time for us. Yes, the decision to follow Christ is definitive, but discipleship then becomes the distinguishing characteristic of our lives. The process of healing is often gradual and there are many patterns of sin which obscure our sight of Christ. In this life there will be struggle; Mark's Gospel is crystal clear on this point. As one of my brothers pointed out at breakfast this morning, perhaps there is something in the way the blind man, at first sees humans as trees? Perhaps this a pointer towards the tree which will be the instrument of Christ's Passion and our salvation, and the cross that we are all called to bear in some way?

Moreover, we know that in this life we see as through a glass darkly and that it is only in the next life that we shall Him as He really is, but all the while we are called to persist in faith, hope, charity (I Cor. 13:12-13). There is a sense where in this life we will forever be confused in our perception of things, which is why we need to trust in the One who sees things as they really are.

Finally, the man, now healed, was sent off with the perplexing words: 'Do not even enter the village.' There is the sense here that the man's new life is to take a direction other than that which he would naturally have chosen. In the same way, after the encounter with Christ, we must trust in the path He calls us along, and not just return to our old ways.

Toby Lees O.P.

Br Toby Lees O.P. Fr Toby Lees is currently assigned to the Priory of San Clemente in Rome for reasons of study. He is completing his STB at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas ("Angelicum") in Rome.  |  toby.lees@english.op.org


Anonymous commented on 15-Feb-2017 11:55 AM
Best sermon I've ever read on this gospel. You've really made me think.
Anonymous commented on 16-Feb-2017 01:38 PM
In this physical, medical world, when sight comes first to a blind person, they know not what they see - at first. For it is not just the image of the world around them that they now have access to, but they must develop the neural and cognitive pathways to interpret what they are seeing. The accounting of this miracle is what one might expect to have happen - although only maybe. Maybe? God works in mysterious ways and His healings won't match ours. Still . . . Thank you for this wonderful sermon. My comments are meant in no way to diminish your inspired gift.
Anonymous commented on 16-Feb-2017 03:25 PM
Wonderful sermon! Very much in the Dominican tradition of theological deepness. Maybe the event also points to the following message: like the disciples with their difficulty in understanding (seeing!), the blind man requires an extra effort from Jesus.

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