Feb 19, 2014

As Lent approaches

Mark 8: 22-26
When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida,

people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.

He 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.

Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”

The Gospel above is that for our Mass today, Wednesday.  With Ash Wednesday and the beginning of our Lenten season just two weeks away it may be good to prepare by some personal reflection on what we see or don’t see.  

Like the blind man in the Gospel who “begged” Jesus to “touch him” (did he want to have sight given to him or did he just want a reassuring touch from Jesus?) Lent is a graced opportunity to see things in a new way.  It’s a sort of corrective surgery where we have become distracted or maybe even blind.

Five years ago I bit the bullet and submitted to corrective laser surgery on both my eyes.  Since the age of ten I had worn glasses and or contact lenses but had for a number of years considered this very much touted vision correction.  My eyes were bad enough that like the man in the Gospel, I could see “people looking like trees and walking.”  Well, depending on the light in the room or sunlight outside, I sometimes couldn’t even see the trees except in a hazy blur. So, once I got over the expected fears of having laser beams cut into my eyes (what if the doctor sneezes or hiccups?) I found a wonderful and experienced surgeon who knew his craft very well.  Just for the faint of heart, these laser beams just correct the outer surface of your eye by reshaping the cornea.  And yes, it is amazing and no there is no pain at all. Now, trees are trees, leaves are leaves, and the rest is history as they say.

I find the reaction of the man who answered after Jesus put his hands on him interesting.  “I see people looking like trees and walking. Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly.” It seems that his healing was done in gentle stages.  It’s almost as if Jesus was asking, “Is that enough correction?  Ok, maybe a little more power is needed to give you 20/20 vision.”

Yet, it may also be a way of the Gospel writer reminding us that God is gentle with us and an answer to prayer may come in gradual stages while each time tests our faith further.  “I’ve done this much for you. Do you still believe that will do more if you place your faith in me?”

As in all the miracle healing stories, the person healed is called to deeper faith - not in the healing itself but in Jesus, the person who reached out in mercy to heal them. In doing so, our Lord did far more than the man expected.  He not only gave him physical sight but even more importantly reconciled him to his family, friends, and the general society as well.  His stigma was taken away and he found freedom among his peers.

It is interesting that the man’s reaction to this healing is not reported.  He was sent home by Jesus with the admonition that he “not even go into the village.”  How could he possibly have kept this a secret?  Once he was blind and now he could see!  How did this happen and whose responsible for it?  One could extend and imagine that news spread quickly and this was not the last time Jesus saw this man whose life was changed profoundly by his touch and by his personal faith that was most likely moved by gratitude and wonder.

Have you been touched by the Lord in some significant way?  Was that touch gradual, each time a test to go further in faith?  Sometimes we don’t see the forest for the trees because we find ourselves blind to God’s presence or his daily invitation. 

Maybe these are some questions to reflect on as Lent approaches and we submit ourselves once again to the gentle surgery of God’s love.