In today’s Gospel, we witness a miracle that both demonstrates Jesus’ physical power to heal and conveys a symbolic meaning.
The facts of the story are this: A blind man comes to Jesus and begs for vision. Jesus takes him outside the village, puts spit on his eyes and then asks if he can now see. The man says he sees people “looking like trees and walking”. Jesus touches the man’s eyes again, and his sight is fully restored. He sends him away, telling him not to go back to the village he came from.
We first and foremost marvel at Jesus’ power of physical healing. The onset of a seemingly irrevocable ailment like blindness is completely life-changing. And the power to reverse that is monumental! After the initial awe of Jesus’ power, we also notice that, though Jesus has all the power of Heaven, he is never too busy to listen to our pleas and to bring us comfort in our times of need.
On another level, we learn how Jesus helps those who have gone spiritually blind. We know that this man could once see or else he would not have compared blurry people to trees. But now he is lost, confused, and lacking direction, a feeling we can all relate to. In order to heal the man, Jesus’ first step is to remove him from his surroundings. When we have wandered onto a path of darkness, we must first leave behind the lifestyle, habits, or even people that lead us there. This can be a very scary step, but as with the blind man, we know that Jesus will take our hands and lead the way.
The next step is to allow Jesus to touch us. Jesus wants us to be happy and whole and to do so we must allow him to develop a close, personal relationship with us. When we have strayed, we are in need of the sacrament of reconciliation and the Eucharist. In reconciliation, we humble ourselves and admit to our need of healing, as the blind man did. In the Eucharist, we are united with Jesus’ physical presence, as was the blind man when Jesus applied his saliva to his eyes.
And yet, one encounter with Jesus is still not enough for everything to make sense. After the first touch, the blind man's vision is still very blurred. Only after the second touch is the blind man’s sight fully restored. Does this mean Jesus wasn’t strong enough to heal him on the first try? No, this simply shows us that conversion of the heart and a deeper understanding of the faith come gradually. The process is life-long and requires patience and sacrifice as we break bad habits and create new, good ones.
After the man is healed, Jesus tells him not to return to the village. Once we have turned our backs on vice, we have to resolve never to return to it.
The more we learn in this life, the more we realize just how blind we are. We all crave the clarity that only Jesus can supply. Let's follow the steps of the blind man in the gospel, turning away from sin, partaking in the sacraments, and resolving to change our lives for the better.