By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 8:11-26
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
14 Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out — beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” 16 They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” 17 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
22 They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23 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?” 24 And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”
In the gospels we have lots of accounts of Jesus healing people with all kinds of maladies, and plenty of times we’re told of the crowds in which he healed all who needed it. But, at least off the top of my head, today’s lesson is the only account in which Jesus employs the maxim, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
The thing is, he didn’t need to. He could have healed this blind man as he — apparently — healed all the others, with one go. But thank goodness that at least once he didn’t, and thank Goodness (himself) that Mark tells us about it. Because although God always has the option of healing us all at once, we rarely experience it that way. Especially with emotional and spiritual hurts, healing is almost always a slow process, a thing we revisit and repeat over and over again. The lesson today should come to a lot of us as a relief: God hasn’t left us unhealed, he’s with us in the midst of a process.
We sometimes present a false dichotomy of Christian suffering: either God heals our hurts, or, if not, then we carry them redemptively. But it’s not an either/or. Sometimes God heals us outright, but the things that aren’t healed outright aren’t things God doesn’t mean to heal, they are places where we see un-clearly — “men like walking trees” — where God is still at work. Redemptive suffering is sometimes what the process of healing looks like. Carrying the suffering we experience, and believing that God can use it, but also that God will not stop with us until all is healed, is the very heart of faith.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Today we pray for:
Episcopal Church of our Saviour, Jacksonville, Fla.
The Church of the Province of Myanmar (Burma)