The story about the blind man of Bethsaida, to me, has always had a special place in my heart. This is for two reasons. First, as one of the "vision-impaired" people of the world; if I remove my glasses, people do, in some way, look like walking trees. So, the image is not lost on me. And second, it is one of the most curious stories in all of the Gospel. It is one that I can't seem to ever fully wrap my mind around. Yet, today at Mass I may have been gifted an insight into at least one of the senses of this particular reading. Daringly I would like to share this "fruit of contemplation."
The Gospel reading today is Mark 8:22-26 and it recounts the blind man who is brought to Jesus and is healed in part and then healed in full. There are many curious aspects surrounding this passage of Sacred Scripture. Why does Jesus have to heal the man in a two part action? Why does Jesus use spit and dirt in the partial healing and the laying on of hands in the completion of the healing? Why do the people look like trees who are walking? Why does he tell the man to go home but not to enter the village? It is definitely a tremendously perplexing passage for one that is so short. This ever reminds me of the great complexity of Scripture and the many aspects of the Revelation it can impart in so few words. Yet, there is always a key, a hint, a clue that helps to unveil the mystery that it is trying to impart. Here, I believe at least one of the keys is Creation and Re-Creation.
If viewed from the right perspective this short passage is a retelling of the whole of salvation history. This blind man is not named, as Bartimaeus is (which is curious in itself). So in a way, this blind man is each one of us born in sin. He is everyman. As is well known, those with natural afflictions were thought to have committed some offense to God and the ailment was a just punishment for sin. Thus this man is blinded because of sin. In this respect he is Adam and all his progeny after the fall. He is a beggar before the Lord like all of Israel yearning for the touch of God. For man recalls his very creation - the creative touch of God that formed him from the mud of the earth; he is like the Patriarchs of the Old Testament, yearning for God. And like in the time of Noah when the deluge wiped clean the earth so too does Christ baptise earth, He makes it clean, so that it is once again like that primal earth from which He formed Adam. And so, with this "new earth" he repairs the sight of the man who now sees partially as creation was repaired after the flood - partially. But he does not yet see Christ, rather, he sees "men as trees, walking." He sees, as it were, through the eyes of the Old Covenant. He sees not falsely but he only sees partially, blurily, because he has not been fulfilled - he does not yet "see everything." He does not yet have full sight because he has not yet become a new creation in Christ.
But then, something new happens. Christ lays His sacred hands on the blind man and he "sees everything." What was blurry is now clear, what was dark is now light. He does not just see the Lord nor does he see people walking like people as would be the natural progression. He does not see something or some things but instead he sees everything. He is now fulfilled, made whole, finished, re-created - divinized. He is now not seeing through the Old Covenant, he now sees from the perspective of the New. Everything makes sense. The law is fulfilled in this man's sight. Christ commands him not to go into the town because cannot return to dwelling place of men who only see partially. Their palce is with the land, the inheritance of Israel, but he has no share in the land - his portion is now the Lord. He is no longer of the same kind of creation as those in the town. He no longer has a town or a single people to call his own. He does not belong to the world. He belongs to God fully, perfectedly.
This is the drama that is the Christian. Through Baptism we are re-created. We are grafted onto the Body of Christ. We are all Levites of the New Covenant. Unlike the rest of the tribes of Israel the Levites had no share in the Promised Land for their portion was the Lord alone. The Early Church Fathers understood this well. We are Christians! No longer are we slaves or children but free and men grown to full stature in Christ. We are not of the same kind as the inhabitants of the world. By and through Sanctifying Grace we are divinized: we partake of the Divine Nature. We enter into Christ the Door through whom we pass into our true home that is the inner life of the Holy Trinity. It is from the clear windows of this home were we are able to see all - clearly, fully, fulfilled. Through Baptism we are made radically different in kind than the rest of humanity. "O Christian know your dignity!" Before divinization we had a home in a town in a country on a planet in a cosmos. After baptism we have none of this. We become homeless. Or rather, we become home-bound. We become like the Son of Man who has not a rock upon which to rest his head. He is in the world but does not live in it. He is a soujorner, a traveler, a pilgrim who passes through on way to his true home. He tells us this much when he says that His Kingdom is not of this world.
"O Christian know your dignity!" None have seen the Father except the Son for when a man sees God he cannot but die. But, when a Christian sees God he cannot but live! For, on the sixth day God created man in His own image and likeness, and breathed into him a soul so that he might live. On the seventh day He lay down His tools and rested from His work. But on the eighth day God picked up the tool of the Cross and by it He re-created man in the image and likeness of the Son, who breathed into him the Holy Spirit so that he might have life - and by the Light of this new life within him; he may now, truly see.