How Jesus Heals Us…

“He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.  When he had spit  on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’. He looked up and said, ‘I see people; they look like trees walking around.’. Once more, Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes.  Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  Jesus sent him home...” (Mark 8:23-26a NIV).

I’ve always been intrigued by this Gospel episode.  Unlike all the other accounts of healings by Jesus, this one doesn’t seem to “take” right away; Jesus has to lay his hands on the man twice.  Pondering this account, I see several aspects of this man’s encounter with Jesus that are notable and perhaps apply to us also.

First, Jesus takes the man off by himself.  He takes the man “by the hand” and leads him away so as to deal with him privately, one on one.  For each of us, the wounds in our soul are deep and personal, not normally things we talk easily to others about.  If Jesus Christ is to effect the deep,  individual, personal healing we need and long for, we must allow ourselves – indeed we must actively seek – quiet, intimate time alone with him.  In prayer, we must pour out our hearts to him and then wait and listen for his response to us.  We must believe that he wants to respond, and we must practice tuning in to his voice above the tumult of our anxieties and  distractions.  For no profound healing happens in the midst of the clamor of the world or of our own hearts: “…In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Isaiah 30:15 NIV). 

We must ask for the courage to be real with ourselves and with God.  We must be willing to exercise perseverance in our prayers, cultivating and making friends with an expectant silence which makes space for God to communicate with us.   Above all, we must seek to hear God’s voice in Scripture, for that is the most common means the Holy Spirit uses to guide us and to communicate with us.  The Bible is the very foundation of all we believe, and it is the best springboard for true dialogue with the Trinity. 

Second, the man’s encounter with Jesus is extremely intimate.  Jesus uses his saliva to heal the man, something very personal indeed.  It is interesting to note that an ancient tradition believed that God used his “saliva” and the dust of the earth to fashion the clay used in the creation of Adam.  Is Jesus perhaps “re-creating” this man who was born with a defect that keeps him from seeing properly?  No matter, the man must willingly submit to this unusual ointment without drawing back; he must humbly trust the process, stay very close to Jesus and literally put himself into Jesus’ hands.

So must we.  Our drawing near must be a full relinquishment of our own ideas about how the healing of our wounds and defects is to be accomplished.  We must let Jesus have his way; we must share ourselves intimately with him just as he longs to share intimately with us as our Divine Bridegroom.  This is made possible especially as we partake of his Eucharistic Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  For it is there that Jesus shares with us his very own Body and Blood: that Body given up for us, risen full of divine Life; and that Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant which purchased our salvation.  Our Creator alone knows how to heal what keeps us from living the full life he so desires to make possible for us.  Being entirely humble, and willing to be radically detached from our own expectations opens us to what God wants to do to bring about this healing.  He asks only that we ask for the grace to trust him. 

Thirdly, Jesus is patient.  When the man doesn’t immediately receive his sight (we don’t know why; Jesus does), Jesus doesn’t become impatient or blame the man; he simply lays his hands on him once more, tenderly and with great forbearance.  Often, we have a timetable in our minds of how or when we “should” be healed or delivered from our afflictions, and we can become impatient with God, tempted to give up asking for what we want, or even worse, pretend to ourselves that we’re okay without that healing.  We can even convince ourselves that we didn’t want it anyway, killing our desire rather than living in the painful “not yet” of waiting.  We need God’s grace to persevere in hope, and, like the persistent widow of Jesus’ parable (see Luke 18:1-8), we must learn not to be discouraged as we wait.  God is never late, though he often delays in order to purify our desires, and increase our faith in his goodness and faithfulness to his promises.  Grace for the fortitude to wait is always an appropriate prayer, for we all struggle with this – just read the Psalms.

Lastly, the blind man is an icon for our own particular issues, be they emotional, psychological, or physical.  The man is physically blind, while most of us are not that.  But our own maladies, whatever they may be, typically create malformations in our souls because of untruths that we accept, false stories we repeat to ourselves.  We falsely believe the distortions created by the unfortunate experiences of the past,  and can end up concluding that that we are not worthwhile, not loveable, not acceptable.  Or that we’re weak, or inadequate, or stupid or ugly.  Perhaps we’ve been rejected, made fun of, even abused and this has led us to “see” the world and the people in it in distorted ways.  We’re a bit like the man seeing people “like trees walking around”.  We’re kind of spiritually blind, unable to “see” accurately.  Jesus wants to heal that spiritual blindness so that we might not see life through the lens of our painful past any longer, but rather see Him, right in front of us, in the midst of our circumstances, loving us and caring for us and redeeming our past pain.  Only Jesus can do this, and this is what he longs to do.

Our deepest “wound” is the rupture of our trustful union with God, and the healing of that is the truest healing, for it readies us for Heaven. We can never heal this wound ourselves; our challenge is to let ourselves be loved so that Jesus can tell us who we truly are as his beloved children.  This can be challenging for us, even while we so long for it, for we’re all “strangers in paradise”, not used to such mercy and generosity.  Jesus only wants our hearts; as we continue to cling to him, he will continue to pour his healing, transforming love into those hearts.

The end of the Gospel account is also instructive.  Jesus sends the man home.  He sends him back to live his life in the same circumstances with the same people as before, though now he’s changed, healed, no longer “defective”.  Jesus wants him to come to truly believe this new truth about himself in the depths of his being.  Jesus  wants him to live his life as a “new creation” with a new identity.  For then he can quietly bear witness to those around him.  His life will be a quiet witness to his life-transforming encounter with Jesus, this One who took him aside, shared intimately with him, and patiently continued to work with him until he was fully healed.  The man has been touched by Love, and Love has healed him.  Now he can be an apostle of Love and experience the joy of bringing others into their own experience of healing.

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