The Progressive Healing of our Sight and Speech, Sixth Wednesday (II), February 19, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
February 19, 2014
James 1:19-27, Ps 15, Mk 8:22-26

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the Gospel Jesus does something noteworthy. Unlike most of the other recorded miracles of Jesus where he healed instantaneously by his touch or by his words, today he heals a blind man progressively, in stages. After Jesus puts spit on his eyelids, the man can see people looking like walking trees; the next time he did it he could see everything distinctly. Jesus obviously had the power to heal him of his blindness instantaneously, but he progressively healed him, I believe, in order to help the man persevere in hope and faith. Many of Jesus’ miracles since then are progressive. He heals us in stages, so that we, too, may grow in the Christian virtues of patience, perseverance and faith in contact with Jesus’ sacred humanity touching our own.
  • Today we need to discuss how Jesus seeks progressively to heal us, to heal our sight, to heal our hearing, to heal our speech. Jesus worked this miracle in the Gospel immediately before the scene tomorrow when he’ll ask the apostles and us who we believe him to be. The apostles needed God’s help to see who he really is. Some thought initially he was the Messiah, others didn’t, but they all needed to grasp that he was also the Son of God. Peter confesses him as the Christ and Son of God by the grace of the healing of his mind by God the Father. We, too, need that healing to see him and confess him.
  • In the first reading today, St. James talks about the mirror of the Word of God, which is one way God progressively heals us. The more we get to know his holy Word, the more we get to know him, to know ourselves, and to know how we’re called to live in loving communion with him. St. James says positively that when we look into the mirror of the Word of God, we see who we’re supposed to be and how we’re supposed to fix ourselves. Today when we look in a mirror, it’s not because of narcissism (or at least it shouldn’t be!). We look to see if our hair’s straight, if we still have shaving cream on the ears, if the double-windsor knot of a man’s tie is straight, if a woman’s make up came out the way it should. If there’s anything awry as we look in the mirror, we then try to correct it. That’s the vision that the word of God gives to us, to see ourselves as we are and to help us to correct ourselves by bringing ourselves into alignment with God’s word and will. That’s the first healing God gives us, of our sight, to see ourselves as we really ought to be, to remember our fundamental identity. In the Responsorial Psalm today, we see the “mirror image” of the one who will live on the Lord’s mountain, the mirror image image of who he wants us to be, the one he wants to help us to become: “He who walks blamelessly and does justice; who thinks the truth in his hear and slanders not with his tongue. Who harms not his fellow man, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor; Who lends not his money at usury and accepts no bribe against the innocent.”
  • The next progressive healing God wants to give us is of our hearing and speech. St. James is very clear today about the way a Christian ought to listen and converse: “Know this, my dear brothers and sisters, everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. … If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain.” Many people, rather than being quick to hear and slow to speak, are instead slow to hear and quick to speak. When we’re quick to hear and slow to speak, it shows that we recognize how much we need to learn and docile. It also shows how much we desire to enter into another’s experience, to hear other’s opinions, even more than sharing our own. When we’re slow to hear and quick to speak, it shows that we believe we have little to learn from others and care more about our own experiences and thoughts than we do others’. If we can’t bridle our tongue and listen, St. James says, our worship of God is worthless because then we won’t really even listen to him, especially when he speaks to us about how we glorify him in loving others.
  • Pope Francis has been talking a great deal about those who can’t bridle their tongue, gossipers who are quick to speak and often quick to anger. He has spoken more about the sin of gossip in his first year as Pope than probably all the popes of the last 100 years combined. On Sunday, as we was giving his Angelus meditation on Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount to the 50,000 who had assembled in St. Peter’s Square, he pondered Jesus’ saying that it’s not enough not to murder others, but we also can’t insult them, or use our tongue to slay them through gossip. He said when we gossip about others, when we engage in detraction and calumny, we, like Cain, slay our brother Abel with our tongue. And he called on the multitude before him in St. Peter’s Square to make a commitment with him never to gossip. For us, it’s not that hard for us never to murder somebody, because we are convinced of the evil of it and just can’t see ourselves in a situation in which we would end someone else’s life with our hands, or a knife or a gun. Pope Francis wants us to be similarly convinced about the evil of killing our brothers and sisters, assassinating their reputation, with our tongues. He said, “I tell the truth, I am convinced that if each of us makes the commitment to avoid gossip, we would end up a saint!” He asked, “Do we really want to be saints? Yes or no?” The crowd shouted up “Si!” (Yes). He continued, “Do we want to live addicted to the habit of gossip? Yes or no?” The piazza said, “No!” The Pope Finished, “Then we agree. Never to gossip!” To see ourselves in the mirror of God’s word the way we ought to, we need to see that God calls us never to use our capacity for speech to hurt others, but rather to try to help them.
  • How does this progressive healing of our hearing and speech happen? How can we become people of bridled tongues, who are slow to speak and quick to hear? The Lord Jesus seeks to take us, too, aside from the crowd one by one to heal us, and he does that above all in the Sacrament of Confession. It’s there where he helps us little by little to see ourselves as we are and convert to become who we see in the mirror of his own life as the Word made flesh. It’s where he strengthens us from within so that we might become his mirrors in the world. In the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, Christ ministers to us individually and purifies our sight, our speech, our hearing, our heart, our entire life. We need to love and be grateful for this sacrament, as grateful as the blind man in today’s Gospel was to receive this gift of the Lord Jesus.
  • This morning in St. Peter’s Square, to 20,000 people, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of this Sacrament and how we need — often — to allow the Lord to take us aside, to heal us gradually of everything that impedes our natural and supernatural senses. He stressed, “The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a healing. When I go to confess, it’s to be healed, to heal my soul, to heal my heart and whatever I’ve done wrong. The Bible expresses the connection between healing and the forgiveness of sins best in the episode of the forgiveness and healing of the paralytic, where the Lord Jesus reveals himself at the same time as the doctor of souls and bodies.” For that reason, he said, “Don’t be afraid of Confession! When one is in line to go to confession, one can feel all types of things including shame, but after one has confessed, he leaves free, feeling great and beautiful, forgiven, pure and happy. And this is the beauty of Confession! I would like to ask you — don’t say it out loud, but I’d ask each one to respond in his or her heart — when was the last time that you went to confession? Everyone should think about it. Was it two days, two weeks, two years, 20 years, 40 years? … If a long time has passed, don’t lose another day, go to confession. The priest will be good to you. It’s Jesus you’ll meet, Jesus the best of priests, Jesus will receive you, he’ll embrace you with so much love. Be courageous and go to confession!”
  • St. James today calls us to be not only hearers of the Word but doers of the Word. May he intercede for us that we may put into practice what God has taught us today about the healing of our senses and heart, as we prepare not to have Jesus put his saliva on our eyelids but to receive his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity on the saliva of our tongues as we become one with him and give him permission to carry out his progressive healing from within us!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
JAS 1:19-27

Know this, my dear brothers and sisters:
everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger
for anger does not accomplish
the righteousness of God.
Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess
and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you
and is able to save your souls.Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer,
he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror.
He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets
what he looked like.
But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres,
and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts;
such a one shall be blessed in what he does.If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue
but deceives his heart, his religion is vain.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 15:2-3A, 3AB-4AB, 5

R. (1b) Who shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord?
He who walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
R. Who shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord?
Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
By whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.
R. Who shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord?
Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
shall never be disturbed.
R. Who shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord?

Gospel
MK 8:22-26

When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida,
people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.
Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked,
“Do you see anything?”
Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”
Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly;
his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.
Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”