There is a warmth and kindness in today’s readings. There are promises and fulfillment. We are offered a picture of how closely God moves towards us and offers us ways out of certain exiles, alienation’s and darknesses.
We hear from the Prophet Jeremiah who is singing a different tune from his usual repertoire of laments and accusations. He has spent much of his life calling Israel back to their following their identity as God’s holy people. They failed to listen so there they are in exile.
What we hear in our First Reading has an Advent theme to it. Jeremiah speaks of shouting for joy for the loving God is bringing them all back, the blind, lame and the little ones as well. God’s love sent them into captivity to get their attention and their faithful response. Now God will gather his beloved and reinforce their name as the Beloved.
The thing to note here is that all will be returning even those who have physical disabilities or deformities. No one person will be excluded from their being in God’s holy family. Blindness was seen to be a sort of curse as was being lame or ulcerous. God the Creator is claiming them all as blest and belonging to God.
Mark ends this section of his Gospel with a symbolic summary miracle. The events of Jesus’ life begin to take a dramatic turn with the beginning of the next chapter as he enters Jerusalem on a donkey in triumph, but heading for the cross.
These past few Sundays we have heard from this same chapter. Jesus has spoken hard things about divorce, the danger of riches, and the role of the disciples as servants of all. The symbol for Mark’s readers was and is, about our being offered visions of life ordered along the teachings of Jesus. The disciples and fellow travelers are symbolized by a person who has heard Jesus, but wants to see him more clearly and follow him more closely. It summarizes the whole life of Jesus up to this point; he came to be seen by all and followed.
This man who was blind, was unable to see himself and know what he looked like. He could feel his face and have others tell him how he looked, but these always fell so far short of the reality. Not to know what he looks like has resulted in his sitting by the side of the road and calling out for “pity”. This cry is an echo of how he feels about himself.
There seems to be a consequent self-negativity when one can not see one’s face and physical image. There are those also who can see and do not like what they look like in reality. They too can tend to the sidelines in a pitying state of being blinded by what they do see.
Jesus is passing by us all and asking us what we want him to do for us. By our fallen human nature we have varying forms of visual impairment and or shame. We have experiences of recovery of sight in relationship to some of creation. We see the value of things and become sensitive to our using creation’s variety. It does seem that the last impairment is our being able to see ourselves as beautiful, lovely, pleasing, delightful, wonderful and blest. This recovery of sight led to the man’s mobility; he got up and followed Jesus. Somehow Jesus helped him see himself enough at least to begin his recovery of the more of him. It is the work; the mission of Jesus to bring to life all that was unlively.
It is a truth that we can not give what we do not have. As well, we find it most difficult to give what we do not love. Those who believe in Jesus are invited, encouraged and expected to believe also in what he says about us. The community of believers in the early Church was that little group, who like Paul himself, had recovered their sight about themselves in such a way that they could follow Jesus into generous ministry and relationships. As there are many ways to injure our ability to see, there are even more ways we can injure our faculty of visualizing who we are in God’s eyes. It is in that condition that we join the man on the side of the road in his crying out for “pity”. It is also to that condition that Jesus enters and asks us exactly what we want. Here is the challenging part though. Be careful! Do you really want to see? Seeing will lead you to the appreciation and acceptance of your face and person and history, which will then lead you to get up, follow him into generous service and relationships. His love does free us to love ourselves seeingly and offer ourselves less blindly.
"Let hearts rejoice who search for the Lord. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek always the face of the Lord.” Ps. 105
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