My favorite healing story in Mark’s Gospel is the curing of the blind man at Bethsaida. God confirmed this because the lone bookmark in my study bible remained on Mark 8:22-26. I placed that bookmark over 4 years ago!
Like most of the healing stories in Mark, the curing of the blind man is short. Here is the text,
22When they arrived at Bethsaida, they brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked, “Do you see anything?”g 24Looking up he replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” 25Then he laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly. 26Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.” (Mark 8:22-26 New American Bible)
I call this Jesus’ “apparent failed miracle” mostly because he has to cure the blind man in stages—the cure does not happen instantaneously. The man’s statement, “I see people looking like trees and walking”, is the oddest sentence I ever read in the New Testament. It took me a long time to realize the purpose of this story. I give two reasons for why Mark 8:22-26 is the turning point in Jesus’ ministry.
The healing happened in stages
This healing stands unique against Jesus’ other healings because Jesus does not heal the blind man right away. St. Jerome in Homily 79 viewed this passage allegorically to signify mankind’s gradual increase in wisdom. In other words, God’s revelation of truth throughout the Old Testament, New Testament, and current in the age of the Church is incremental.
Peter’s declaration happens immediately after this healing
I previously mentioned the significance of having a contextual reading of the Bible as a whole. Most people tend to see this as reading books in the context of other biblical books. Yet, in the case of Mark 8:22-26 a contextual reading to draw out this passage’s meaning can occur within the gospel itself. Peter declares Jesus to be the Christ in Mark 8:30. I do not think this was a coincidence on the part of the evangelist. I believe Mark placed the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida before Peter’s revelation strategically. He wanted to show how God’s truth is revealed gradually. From this point of the gospel until the end Jesus starts to ramp up his predictions of his Death and Resurrection. He reveals his identity more and more!
Living out the Gospel
I challenge you all to reflect upon this healing story and ask yourself these questions: At what stage am I at in my faith journey? Do I truly recognize Jesus to be the Christ as Peter proclaims, or am I still partially blind in my faith and seeing “theological trees”?
Having taught high school Old and New Testament in the past and being a cradle Catholic, the newness of the Good News found in the Bible sometimes gets taken for granted. During the Liturgy of the Word for Sunday’s Mass, the Gospel reading actually penetrated my theological torpor and liturgical listlessness. Mark 5:21-43 details two healing stories in one gospel proclamation. The evangelist began with a synagogue official named Jarius pleading to Jesus to save his daughter near death. On the way toward Jarius’ residence, Mark inserts a seemingly tangential telling of the woman afflicted with a hemorrhage for a dozen years! Jesus heals this poor woman and the passage concludes with Jesus raising Jarius’ daughter from the dead.
Reflecting on this passage the following questions invaded my mind:
1. Why does Mark insert a seemingly random story within a healing story? Could he not simply detail the healing of the hemorrhaging woman after completing the passage on the healing of Jarius’ daughter?
2. Does this Gospel reading contain the strangest sentence uttered by Jesus: Who has touched my clothes? Is he not omniscient and all-knowing as God?
3. Power flowing from Jesus…what a peculiar way to describe the healing incident?
These questions initially perplexed me, however, when I had time to think about the passage and re-read the evangelist’s words, and interpret in light of the teaching of the Catholic Church I learned of the deeper more spiritual meaning hidden within Mark 5:21-43 and how it relates to my life today.
Christ Willing to Save All—Social Status does not matter
Sandwiched between the beginning and the end of the healing of Jarius’ daughter, Mark inserted Jesus’ encountered a woman suffering from a blood disorder. After careful review, I noticed the juxtaposition between the two individuals. Below is a chart that showing the differences in how Jarius’ daughter and the unnamed woman came to learn about Jesus.
Woman Suffering Hemorrhage
Father’s Intercedes Actively
Passive Request for Healing
John Paul II declared, “[O]nly in Christ do we find real love, and the fullness of life. And so I invite you today to look to Christ.” Certainly, Mark 5 demonstrates people who recognize the importance and power of Jesus.
According the evangelist, “And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, ‘Who touched my garments?’” Obsessed with superheroes, I recently received Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game from my wife for Father’s Day. Along with my passion for this geeky deck-building game, I have rented a slew of comic books from the library as well. While my fandom seems random to the discussion of Mark’s Gospel I need to provide a little backdrop to my thought process after hearing the priest read Mark 5:30, the first thought that popped into my head, “I did not know that Rogue made an appearance. Sapping or draining of power is the hallmark of that X-Men character. Marvelously [no pun intended], merely grazing the cloak of Jesus provided the woman healing that eluded doctors many years.
Joking aside, the healing power of Jesus is quite amazing. Previous consultation with doctors failed to ease the woman’s suffering. The passage that may be interrupted as a “power loss” of Jesus is not meant to infringe on his divine nature. On the contrary, Mark, like the other Synoptic Gospels, never dispute the divinity of Christ, he was utilizing language that his audience would be able to understand.
Jesus—Hope in Face of Despair:
Along with Jesus’ desire to save all humanity, regardless of social standing, Mark 5:21-43 focuses on hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. After healing the woman with a hemorrhage, Jesus arrived too late—at least that was what the crowd thought! Urging Jarius to accept his daughter’s fate the onlookers declared, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” Men of little faith and tenacity would have resigned themselves to start the grieving process, yet Jesus urged the synagogue official to not be afraid.
According to Saint Pope John XXII, “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” From the onset of this Gospel reading Jarius actively sought the aid of Jesus and pleaded for the return of his daughter to life when all looked hopeless as she appeared to linger in the shadow of death. Below is a link to a story about Jesus providing miraculous healing to another young daughter—prematurely born!
Uniqueness of the Individual:
A final thought that crossed my mind when reflecting on Mark 5:21-43 was that Jesus focuses on the present moment with grace, love, and resolve. Even on the way toward healing a prominent religious official’s child, Christ paused to listen to the needs of an ordinary, poor woman. Saint Mother Teresa said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Do not worry about the past nor the future only concern about the need of God’s children in front of you.
This is exactly what Jesus did in Mark 5:25-34—noticing the presence of the sickly woman Christ stopped to show mercy the person in need at the present moment. As a father of three young children, my focus is frequently divided between juggling the various needs and adventures of my kids growing up. What I learned to devote my attention and time to the present moment and act with love instead of worrying about the various needs and whether it will be adequate or not. The genius of the Gospel message centers on the individual first. Siphoning sanctity cannot occur as love multiplies not divides when more and more individuals come into your life.
Today my family celebrates my youngest son’s two-year old birthday. Since his breakthrough into this world, he provided my life with light, levity, and laughter. Being our rainbow baby—a child born after suffering a marriage—his name seemed to be apropos, Josiah. The name Josiah actually means “healer”. Truly, the Holy Spirit guided my wife and I toward this name. In a gridlock over boy names, suddenly the name Josiah entered my mind as an option. Upon telling my wife of this idea she fell instantly in love with the name. Only after settling on this matter did we discover his healing nature.
According to Psalm 147:3, “[God] heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” The Divine Physician sends healing graces in a myriad of ways—the ordinary and prime method is through the gifts of the seven sacraments. Children are a natural fruit of the procreative sexual acts. God elevates these fruits in the sacrament of Matrimony to provide husband and wife opportunities to growth in holiness and strength to remain steadfast and calm in difficult family times. Paragraph 1641 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states,
By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God.147 This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they ‘help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.’
As previously stated, the ordinary means of growing in holiness is through participation of the sacramental life. Within the sacrament of Matrimony I have learned that laughter is a strong defense against the prowess of pride. No other person [aside from my wife] is able to consistently cause me to laugh or smile, and I mean genuinely grin until my mouth hurts or laugh until my side hurts, than my son Josiah! Recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder he poses an array of daily challenges, but his [apparent] disability gives him the unique ability to provide levity to stressful situations throughout the week.
A major trait for people with autism spectrum disorder is that they normally become obsessed with a particular interest that encompasses nearly every facet of life. Toy cars emerged as my son’s particular obsession–several months ago– and he needs to carry at least one car in hand at all times. Toy cars provide comfort to him during stressful and changing situations. Allowing him to carry toy cars helps minimize meltdowns and tantrums. Seeing my son’s enthusiasm and joy whenever he wakes up in the morning and runs over to the toy-chest to dump over his box of cars and trucks gives me a smile. His routine is the same each day.
Consulting the King of Paradox
The joy of autism in my son reminds me of the words of G.K. Chesterton,
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we (Orthodoxy).
Monotony does not exist in our household. Autism spectrum disorder is challenging to deal with as a parent. I would be a liar if I said otherwise. However, going into marriage and thinking parenting, of any kind, would be easy is a fallacious lie the Evil One sows into the minds individuals entering marriage. Admittedly, I am prone to the sin of laziness and I too fell, and recently fell, into the trap of believing that parenthood should be easy. The benefit of writing this tribute is that it has allowed me time to ponder the ups and the downs of fatherhood.
Mary’s Perfect Motherhood–a pathway to a more perfect fatherhood
Recently, I renewed my dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary through praying the Rosary as I rocked Josiah to bed. Starting with a couple Hail Marys I worked my way up to a decade before he started chucking his toy cars onto the floor–this is a sign he usually is ready for me to lay him down in the crib. The simple petition to my spiritual Mother actually allowed me to grow in the virtue of patience–vitally important for my journey toward being a better father. St. Josemaria Escriva advocated of the Rosary by saying, “Say the Holy Rosary. Blessed be that monotony of Hail Mary’s which purifies the monotony of your sins!”
My experience can attest to the truth value of his statement. Bedtime is the perfect time for the Devil to swoop in and allow for sins of impatience and anger explode. Children often arise from bed, even now as I write, my daughter is getting out of her room to try to escape nap time [thus interrupting the flow of my writing!] “Dad! I dropped my golden boogers (jar of gold flakes that she somehow found from my childhood trip to Yellowstone) behind the dresser!” This was the reason my children were up. I cannot make up this stuff. Truly the fruits of marriage provide unique opportunities and challenges for parents to ferment in holiness.
Thank you God for the gifts of my children–challenging as they may be to raise. I am grateful to celebrate my son Josiah’s birthday– the creator of laughter, smiles, and curator of toy cars in our household. May God bless you and I pray the Holy Spirit is able to open your hearts to the joy of laughter just as my son frequently does for my family!
October 5th marked the Feast Day of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. Venerated by the Catholic Church as the “Apostle of Mercy” the Polish saint influenced the world arguably more than any other individual in the 20th century. I have mentioned this previously and I will mention this again, Sister Faustina holds a special place in my heart. She has impacted my writing and spirituality as much as anyone. Classified as a mystic because of her unique spiritual experiences and visions from God, Maria Faustina is a model of what holiness looks like when an individual completely trusts on the Father’s will. As a belated celebration of her Feast Day, I will reflect on a couple ways the Polish nun influenced my life.
Daily Dose of Divine Mercy: Maria Faustina received this message from our Lord during her visions, “‘I am love and Mercy Itself. There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted – it increases. The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it.’” (1273, page 459). In His infinite wisdom, God reminded the world—through the young Polish sister—that His mercy overcomes anything. The 20th century experienced two world wars and many decades of Communism. St. Faustina died of tuberculosis before the advent of WWII. God used her as an instrument to prepare people that hope will not be lost despite the atrocities of the Holocaust.
On a personal level, my family has been transformed spiritually by God’s mercy. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy Prayer pulled my wife from the depths of despair after her close high school friend died by suicide. Faustina’s intercession within my wife’s life poured into my spiritual life as well. Frequently, I look to God’s mercy in times of trial and desolation in daily living. I am grateful for St. Maria Faustina’s “YES” to God’s divine plan.
Trust Me I’m the Doctor: Maybe it is because I am a guy and males generally hate to admit weakness, but I need to be direly ill before I allow myself to go to the doctor. Unfortunately, sometimes the same can be said about my spiritual life. Because of my stubbornness and pride, I only seek help from the divine physician when I need spiritual triage. I need to develop a better trust is Jesus Christ—my divine healer—to aid me both in desperate times and during daily living! According to St. Faustina, trust is an essential feature in growing in the spiritual life. Here is an excerpt from her diary:
Today the Lord said to me, ‘Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of Mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity. The torrent of grace inundate humble souls. The proud remain always in poverty and misery, because My grace turns away from them to humble souls. (1602, page 568)
Do I trust that God is present in the confessional? Am I aware that I am spiritually infirmed and in need of healing? Jesus tells us, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do” (Luke 5:31). Through the intercession of Sister Maria I have learned to view Jesus more as a divine doctor and the Catholic Church as a hospital. Let us ask for healing from our sin and weakness by asking Christ the Divine Physician for restorative union with God:
To Christ the Great Physician We know that there is one physician: Both flesh and spirit uncreated, yet born God in man True life in death From both Mary and From God Subject to suffering and then impassible Jesus Christ our Lord!
We ask O Great Physician, for spiritual, physical, and emotional healing, especially my intention of ______. You of both flesh and spirit
May we spend all of our days in your healing presence You the eternal Son born for us
Grant us the healing benefits of your Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection You who are true God and true man
Grant us your true life in the midst of death You, the true life in death
Grant us to follow your example and that of your Blessed Mother You, from both Mary and from God
May our suffering be for our growth; free us, we pray, from that which we cannot bear We ask You, O God the Word who became man to suffer
We ask you to grant us this healing if it brings us closer to you, Jesus Christ our Lord!