The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Homily: Wednesday 6th Week of Ordinary Time

Readings: Jas 1:19-27; Ps 15; Mk 8:22-26

One of the truly remarkable things about the healings we encounter in the Gospels is how different they all are. So often, in response to faith, Jesus cures with a simple word or gesture. But in today’s brief passage from Mark’s Gospel, we encounter a healing that occurs in stages, a process of both faith and healing. Jesus seems to work with the blind man until there’s an inner transformation.

To our knowledge the blind man doesn’t ask for a healing; rather he’s brought to Jesus by his friends. They, too, don’t ask for a healing, at least not directly. Their faith is such that they expect Jesus’ touch will be enough. But the blind man? Well, he just seems to be going along for the ride, doesn’t he? So far we have no real evidence of faith on his part. And so Jesus begins the process of healing, a process that includes a parallel process of faith.

How does He begin? By taking the blind man by the hand and leading him away from the village. “Look,” Jesus is saying, “you’re blind, not just physically, but spiritually as well. If you’ll let me, I’ll lead you away from the source of your spiritual blindness. I’ll lead you away from those who will only take you back into blindness. I will lead you from an unholy place to a holy place, to a place where real healing can occur."

The process of healing itself begins almost sacramentally, doesn’t it? “Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man…” This is nothing but Jesus performing a rite of anointing and a laying on of hands.

But the cure doesn’t occur right away. No, Jesus inquires on the progress of the cure, and awaits the findings of the blind man. “Do you see anything?” Are you responding in faith? And, yes, the man responds, tentatively at first, and so Jesus lays his hands on him once again. He then looks intently and his sight is restored. His sight is restored in stages in response to Jesus' healing touch.

Mark records this remarkable miracle in three short phrases: He looked intently and was restored, and saw everything clearly. St. Jerome (347-420), the first of the great biblical scholars, explains the spiritual significance of this healing: 
"Christ laid his hands upon his eyes that he might see all things clearly, so through visible things he might understand things invisible, which the eye has not seen, that after the film of sin is removed, he might clearly behold the state of his soul with the eye of a clean heart."
How did Mark put it? “…he saw everything clearly.”

Village in Galilee
Shortly after we moved to The Villages, my brother – who passed away a couple of years ago – sent me a little refrigerator magnet that read, “Your village called. Their idiot is missing.” Now I had to put up with that sort of thing if only because he was my older brother and deserved my respect. But this funny little message has a real connection to today’s Gospel, and might help us understand what Jesus meant when he told the man he had cured of blindness not to return to the village: “And then he sent him home and said, ‘Do not even go into the village.’”

In other words, you’re not a villager any more; you’re my disciple. You are healed. You are a man of faith. Avoid the company of those who live in spiritual darkness. You are called to be different!

You see, what I think Jesus was really telling him (and us) is to avoid those who lead us to spiritual blindness. A village can be overly restrictive, can’t it? Too close identification with the village can cause us to conform to other villagers in all things. It can remove our freedom to see things differently. It can imprison us…unless, of course, we respond to the call to be different...unless we choose to be the village idiot.

The word ‘idiot’ comes from the Greek word ‘idios’, which means ‘peculiar’ or ‘private’. And, believe me, if you take your Christianity seriously, many will consider you peculiar. We may have to become a village idiot for a time. For it’s a long hard road to the humanity that Jesus calls us to exhibit.

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