Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O’Sullivan
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror.  He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. (James 1:23-24)
(Jesus) took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.  Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked, “Do you see anything?”  Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”  Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.   (Mark 8:23-25)

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.
(from Amazing Grace, John Newton, 1779)

Key to today’s Gospel story is where it’s placed in Mark’s Gospel.  The Pharisees on more than one occasion have proven themselves blind to Jesus’ true identity.  Instead of the Son of God, they see a troublemaker to be silenced.  The disciples, for all the time they spend with their leader, haven’t demonstrated much more clarity of vision than the Pharisees.  They don’t understand the feeding of the 5,000.  They wonder who this man is that can calm a storm.  They don’t comprehend the parables.  Jesus finally asks them in exasperation, “Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?”  After today’s healing story, Jesus will ask the disciples what people are saying about his identity and who the disciples think he is.  This will be coupled with his attempts to warn them that he will be rejected and will suffer and die.

In between, Jesus takes the blind man from Bethsaida off by himself to heal him.  No, Jesus’ healing powers haven’t waned.  This multi-stage healing story is a parable in and of itself about healing and spiritual growth as processes, not one-time events.  And they’re most often not straight line, smooth processes, either.  When I look at my own life, I think I spent many years knowing a lot about Jesus before I ever really came to know him.  As Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, points out in his book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, it’s paradoxically often our stumblings, our failings, and our losses that are the vehicles for spiritual growth. 

In our first reading, James moves us beyond knowing and loving Jesus to a further step in our spiritual lives.  Once your vision has become relatively clear, he tells us, don’t hurry past the mirror.  Look and see how dearly loved and blessed you are by the Lord.  Notice how much you have to share with others.  Then find the widows and orphans (the most destitute of all people in James’ time), and be doers of God’s word.

Spend a few minutes today reflecting on times when Jesus has lovingly touched the eyes of your heart with healing.  With gratitude for the grace received, reach out to an “orphaned” or “widowed” brother or sister and share out of your abundance.

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