Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time
Gen 8:6ff. From the dove Noah learns that the flood is over and offers sacrifice.The Lord promises never again to destroy the earth.
Mark 8:22ff. Jesus cures the blind man in stages, secretely, with spittle and the touch of his hands.
Maturing by Stages
The gospel suggests the long, gradual process by which we come to the light of truth and the persistence to follow the way of truth. Genesis points out dramatically that the period of the flood must run its full course and that the earth’s return to normal existence cannot be rushed.
The miracle story is told only by Mark; it was not repeated nor even adapted by Matthew and Luke, even though these evangelists relied heavily on Mark. This is also the only miracle which Jesus worked in stages. Jesus even uses such lowly human substance as spittle. Jesus’ willingness to live on our human level offers great comfort. There is a sense of delicate consideration in the way he dealt with the blind man’s need. He first took his hand and with gentle compassion led him outside the village. Then, away from the crowd, he put spittle on his eyes and touching the closed eyelids with his fingers, Jesus bonded with the blind man. This poor man could not see the sorrow in Jesus’ eyes at the sight of this disability, but could feel the clasp of his hand and touch of his fingers. Jesus is not just conforming to common ritual practices but adapting himself to the human condition of need.
The stages of the miracle are noteworthy: first, people looked like walking trees; then, “he could see everything clearly.” These too are the stages of our growth in faith. At first, a new insight into God’s goodness and its expectation of us may appear like “walking trees,” really not a part of our real world. We argue that we do not have the time, nor the material or financial resources to help the poor, the needy and the hungry. Jesus, however, presses the bond of our human flesh and family, places spittle again over our eyelids, gently presses and strokes and to our amazement – to paraphrase the gospel words, “we can see perfectly; our sight is restored and we can see everything clearly.” We have the light to see our way for helping, for finding time and for locating resources to be of service to our fellow human beings.
We may be grateful to Mark for preserving the memory of Jesus’ respect for the stages of our life and its growth to sanctity. The steps to sanctity follow the path of human existence, only we cannot walk the path alone but must be like Jesus who took the blind man’s hand and led him outside the village. We take the hand of our neighbour in need, and to our surprise the hand that we clasp is leading us to our salvation, just as the blind man led Jesus into an episode that preached redemption to us today.
First Reading: Genesis 8:6-13, 20-22
At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent out the raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent out the dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him any more.
In the six hundred first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying. Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odour, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
Gospel: Mark 8:22-26
They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”