Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"God not only orders our steps; he orders our stops."

The determinations of Providence are always wise, often inscrutable; and, though its decrees appear to bear hard upon us at times, is nevertheless meant for gracious purposes. - GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Bryan Fairfax, March 1, 1778

Gospel Text: (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."

An obvious question leaps out from today’s Gospel narrative. Why did Jesus have to lay hands upon the blind man twice for him to see clearly? Doesn’t the fact that He did reveal some weakness or impotence on the part of Jesus?

There is an assumption within this latter question: that Jesus could not have healed the blind man by a single laying on of hands. But if Jesus could have done this, why did He not?

This question (neither Jesus Himself nor the evangelist specifies why Jesus laid hands upon the blind man twice) points to a general theological principle about God: that is, that God does not always effect His Providential Will in the most direct manner possible. In other words, God does not always choose to manifest His power in the briefest, most direct and most “efficient” manner possible.

This principle does not answer the question of why God acts as He does. But the truth behind this principle is related to another, that God sometimes chooses as the agents of His Will not the strongest, brightest, or best qualified. God has a love for the poor, the simple, and the feeble.

To return again to today’s Gospel narrative: perhaps Jesus wanted to foster perseverance within the blind man. Perhaps Jesus wanted the blind man to desire healing more deeply. Perhaps Jesus wanted the blind man to appreciate fully the gift he was being given. Regardless, the unfolding of God’s Providential Will, whether or not it takes the form we think it should, reveals God’s love to us even in the manner in which it’s revealed.

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