Lord, Heal Our Blindness that We May Truly See
Wednesday February 18, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (James 1:19-27) Gospel (St. Mark 8:22-26)
In the Gospel reading, as we hear about Our Lord healing this blind man, it strikes us initially as highly unusual because the man was not completely healed immediately. The Lord laid hands on the man, and then he could see only vaguely. “I can see people,” he said, “but they look like trees walking.” Obviously, the man had not been born blind or he would not know what trees looked like nor what people would look like. It even makes the point that his sight was restored; it was not merely just healed, so he obviously had sight previously. But the question is why this man would not be healed immediately.
The reason for that, which I think we can compare with the first reading, is a fairly clear point. When Saint James tells us, for instance, that we are to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, he tells us also that we have to act upon the word, not just listen to it. And he tells us also that we have to watch the tongue, telling us very clearly that if anyone thinks he is religious and yet does not bridle the tongue, his religion is in vain. Those are some pretty strong statements that he makes. But what happens is if we really stop and look at ourselves and ask ourselves, “Well, do I get angry quickly?” we can even convince ourselves that we are angry for a righteous reason. Yet Saint James is very clear when he says that our anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God. What good is our anger doing? It is not going to help much of anything.
And then we hear the Word of God. Do we act upon it? We act upon part of it; we act upon the parts that are convenient to us. But when there are things that we really do not like, things that might seem a little too hard, things that are inconvenient to us, then we tend to ignore it – “We don’t need to do all of that, after all” – and we find ways of working right around the Word of God. He tells us that we are like a person who looks in the mirror and then forgets what he looks like. You have seen (in this case, you have heard), but you are not doing what you are supposed to do.
Then he talks about not bridling the tongue. On one hand, we are going to say that we have faith in God, we believe in Jesus Christ, we believe in all the truths that Our Lord teaches; and then we are going to turn right around and slice people to pieces with all of our gossip, with all of our rumors, with all the things that we can slander people with and detract them with and so on. Yet we are going to turn right around and use the exact same tongue to be able to recite the Creed, the Gloria, the Hail Mary, the Our Father.
Are we not like people who vaguely see people walking like trees? There is some sight because we know the Word of God, we know the truth, we can speak the truth, but it is not clear because from the same mouth that the truth comes forth so does all the filth. Into the same ears that hear the truth, we put ourselves into places where we want willfully to hear bad things, whether it is trashy music, whether it is gossip, whether it is filthy jokes and stories, unfortunate things that we like to hear about other people. We become just like this man. We have been healed, but we do not want to be healed all the way. It was not a problem with Jesus healing this man; it was a problem with the man wanting to be healed. That is our problem too, sort of like when Saint Augustine actually made the prayer asking the Lord for chastity – but not yet. Are we no different? “Lord, I want to be Your follower but not all the way. I want to be Catholic but I don’t want to be politically incorrect. I want to go to Mass everyday but I don’t want it to affect my life too much that people will think I’m strange.” Are we not blinding ourselves? Are we not freely choosing to not see clearly?
The Lord has put His hands on our eyes. We have heard His word, we have spoken His word, we have received Him in Holy Communion, we have adored Him in the Blessed Sacrament, and then we turn around and we refuse to do what we know we are supposed to do. So we speak the Creed, and then with forked tongue out comes other garbage. We hear the Word, and then we distort our hearing by putting other things in there that should not be going into our ears. We see Him in the Blessed Sacrament, and then we blind ourselves so that with confused sight we are not able to see clearly so that we can justify the sinful things that we want to do. We are the persons who have sight but do not really want to see clearly, if that is what we are doing.
So we need to pray and we need to beg God for the grace to get rid of everything in our lives that is offensive to Him, everything that is causing us to be confused, everything that is leading us astray in whatever manner; in other words, to come to Our Lord and say, “I can see, but not clearly. Please lay Your hands on me a second time so that my sight will be clear, so that I will see only the Will of God; not only to know it, but as Saint James says, to do it.” We are not going to be judged so much on how much we know; we are going to be judged on what we do. And if we have willfully blinded ourselves, we are going to be judged by what we have done; or, in this case, failed to do. If it is a free choice to remain blind, we will have to answer to God for that choice that we have made. Let us beg God for the grace to see clearly and to act upon what we see.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.