This Gospel passage appointed for today is about blindness – a blind man whose sight Jesus restores – however there’s more going on here than meets the eye. In the Gospel according to Mark, there’s a recurring theme of blindness – blindness as a metaphor – of people seeing but not understanding. They have sight, but they do not have insight or foresight. The “eyes of their hearts” are notenlightened.
Just prior to this scene in the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus miraculously feeds a multitude of people, and two different times. The disciples witness both of these miracles, but they are blind to what is really going on, twice. They miss the meaning. Jesus asks, rhetorically: “Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see?”[i]
Mark uses a particular verb for seeing in this Gospel story and multiple times throughout his Gospel. The verb Mark uses for “seeing” is actually the verb for “perception”: which is observing something and then understanding correctly what it means.[ii]But the disciples don’t. They don’t get it. Repeatedly. They’re blind. Mark takes his inspiration from the prophecy of Isaiah, who writes recurringly about the Messiah’s coming to heal blindness, blindness of the heart to perceive and understand.[iii]
Now back to our Gospel story for today, Jesus restores the sight of the blind man… but not immediately. Jesus has two goes at this man’s healing before he can see clearly again. So what do we make of this?
- Healing often takes time, and that includes the healing of our perception. How you see things now is probably very differently from how you saw things then. Take any time period of your own life. Over time, you have changed, your perception has changed. Why? What happened? Jesus seems to have all the time in the world for us… and for others. He is not in a rush. Healing takes time, maybe a lifetime, maybe this lifetime and the next.
- Presume that we all have “blind spots,” where we are prone to miss seeing or understanding things correctly. If you find yourself full of complaint towards some person or some people, presume they are in some ways a mirror. They’re reflecting back to you “your stuff” which you otherwise fail to see. They’ve got “their stuff,” but the reason you’re hooked is because they’re exposing you to “yourstuff.” Your foe may actually be your teacher.
- And just remembering that we are prone to blindness – blind spots or misperceptions – will soften our hard heart in the face of other people, who are as blind as we are. Simply remembering that we all have visual impairments – literally andmetaphorically – will invite compassion and humility in the face of others. If people get it wrong, in our eyes, they’re not trying to get it wrong.
- What about the restoration of your innocence? This is a promise we receive at Easter for a new heart and new eyes promised us by the resurrected Christ.[iv]If you have visual impairment because of cynicism, or anger, or revenge, or bitterness, or resentment – all of which occlude seeing ourselves rightly, and seeing others rightly, therein is our own need for healing and Jesus’ promise and provision for healing: for us to see things again for the first time.[v]It’s like being born again.
[i]Mark 6:34-52 and Mark 8:14-21.
[ii]The Greek verb is blepein, found in Mark 4:12, 24; 8:15, 18; 12:38; 13:5; 9:23, 33.
[iii]“On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see” (Isaiah 29:18); “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped…” (Isaiah 35:5); “Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!” (Isaiah 43:8).
[iv]The “Exsultet,” sung before the New Fire at the Easter Vigil includes the phrase, “…How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn. It casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord…”
[v]A riff on T. S. Eliot: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
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