6th Wednesday in Ordinary Time
Gn 8:6-13, 20-22; Mk 8:22-26
Our miracle story this morning is unique in that the cure is not immediate. As the old Jerome Biblical Commentary points out, “This is the only cure in the Gospels that takes place gradually, in two stages; elsewhere, Jesus’ word effects an instantaneous healing.” Why do you think that might be? The New Jerome Biblical Commentary gives a suggestion: “If any story in Mark has a symbolic function, it is the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida. On the way, Jesus will impress upon the disciples the necessity of his death and resurrection. Nevertheless, the disciples are slow to understand Jesus.” Tomorrow’s gospel will be a continuation of Mark 8. Peter will declare Jesus as the Messiah, but will then take him aside and rebuke him when Jesus makes the first prediction of his passion.
So the man in today’s healing first saw men who looked like trees walking about. That was an improvement; all he saw before was blackness. But we are so glad the story didn’t stop there, that he went on to see clearly and distinctly. We, too, may be tempted in our faith-life to reach a comfortable plateau and stay there. Growth often entails stretching and giving up things of the past. We resist being pushed out of our comfort zone. But the message in today’s gospel is: Don’t settle for walking trees! There is so much more to our faith, so much more that we haven’t discovered yet. We haven’t even scratched the tip of the iceberg. God so wants to reveal himself to us, to give himself to us. The spigot is restricted on our end, not his.
The disciples on the way to Emmaus saw Jesus, but not fully. He was only a walking tree, he was only a fellow-traveler, he was only a man. But then in the breaking of bread they received full sight, for we read: “With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him” Lk 24:31. In our own day many people are in the “walking tree” stage. For the Muslims, Jesus is an honorable prophet, but merely a man – there is only one God. Jews and Hindus, too, have respect for Jesus and his teachings, but for them he is only a man, a creature. Mormons, also, do not believe in the divinity of Christ. I would even venture to say that many Christians see Jesus as a walking tree – at least they’re living their daily lives like they do.
But back to us in this building, we do believe in the divinity of Jesus. The danger with us is getting stuck in a rut and settling for partial sight. In the athletic world, the familiar saying is, “No pain, no gain.” We need to discipline ourselves like a serious athlete and keep pushing for broader vistas and keener sight. Brothers and sisters, do not settle for walking trees!