Abundant Life

Scripture Reading

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.”

(Mark 8:22-26)

 

Scripture Study

8:22–25 Jesus and the disciples arrive at Bethsaida, a small fishing town just east of the mouth of the Jordan River—the destination they had earlier aimed at but did not reach (6:45). As often happens, the healing is initiated by friends or relatives who bring the afflicted person to Jesus (see 1:32; 2:3; 6:55; 7:32). Jesus first establishes a personal contact with the blind man by taking him by the hand, recalling the Old Testament theme that God himself leads his people by the hand (Isa 41:13; Jer 31:32). Like the healing of the deaf man, this cure involves a degree of physical contact that modern readers may find disconcerting. Putting spittle on his eyes (literally, “spitting into his eyes”), Jesus laid his hands on him. At times the mere word of Jesus is sufficient to heal; in other cases his body is the instrument, reminding us that God is not embarrassed by the earthiness of the human body, and even delights to use it as a vehicle of his grace.

Jesus’ question, Do you see anything? involves the man in the dynamics of his own recovery of sight. His reply bespeaks a partial recovery: he sees people looking like trees. The fact that he knows what trees look like indicates that he was not born blind but lost his sight due to illness or injury. Now his vision is beginning to be restored, but he still cannot distinguish objects clearly. The gradualness of his recovery symbolizes the slow and difficult process of opening the disciples’ eyes to an understanding of Jesus and his mission. But Jesus will not leave the man with only a partial restoration. He lays on his hands again, and now the healing is complete. The verb for see (emblepō) could be translated “look intently” or “fix one’s gaze upon,” and suggests the penetrating gaze of faith into spiritual realities, which Jesus desires for his disciples.

8:26 Jesus sends the man home, now that he able is to walk on his own without guidance. The command not to go into the village seems to be an instance of Jesus’ avoidance of the wrong kind of publicity. Although there will be further healings, his priorities now lie decisively with his journey toward Jerusalem and the training of the disciples. At the end of the journey there will be another healing of a blind man (10:46–52), this time instantaneous and complete. The two miracles of recovery of sight form a frame around the journey narrative, symbolizing the disciples’ gradual growth in understanding. Their eyes are partly opened to see that Jesus is the Messiah (8:29), but their vision of him is still shadowy and obscure. They will need a further divine enlightenment to recognize that his messiahship is inextricably linked with the mystery of the cross.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel records Jesus healing a blind man at Bethsaida. That Jesus was a wonderworker is taken for granted in the Gospels. Along with his preaching and his death on the cross, his working of miracles is one of the surest and most basic things we know about him. He preached in order to share the truth of God’s Kingdom; he went to the cross in order to demonstrate the range of the divine love; he worked miracles because he was the embodiment of Yahweh’s desire to save his people.

Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf cleared. Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing.”

These are tremendous words, expressive of Israel’s hope in the saving God. God intends life and abundant life for his people, and he is impatient with a world gone wrong. He longs to set it right, to re-create what sin and fear and death have uncreated.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] Mary Healy, The Gospel of Mark, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 156–157.