Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time (I)

Genesis 8:6-13, 20-22 / Mark 8:22-26

Restoring sight is a lot more complicated than it might seem. Of course, we expect that technically speaking, removing cataracts or repairing retina requires skill, expertise, advances in technology, and the like. Even so, we might imagine that all we need do is remove the obstacle to sight, repair the damaged part of the eyes, and sight will follow quite naturally.

It turns out, however, that things are not so simple. Apparently, when deprived of clear visual information, the brain, especially an immature brain, will "rewire" its part normally devoted to processing visual data to do something else. The result is that, even when the eyes are restored to full functioning, shapes would still appear blurry and indistinct. Even tasks at which the human mind is especially adept, such as picking out human faces, breaks down as a result of early or prolonged blindness, and it takes time for the brain to relearn how to understand what the eyes, in themselves, clearly see.

In noting this, I am not suggesting that this is necessarily what happened with Jesus' healing of the blind man. True enough, the process is eerily like what modern science knows: first the eyes are freed from impediments, then the mind relearns how to see. Still, Jesus could surely have done in one moment and without effort what he chose to accomplish in two different steps.

Even so, this stepwise healing is an important reminder to us of how God often responds to our restoration. God, it seems, is not merely concerned with the removal of obstacles and defects from our lives. Merely to be freed from the blindness arising from sin and suffering is not yet to see the world as we ought. For this we need a new training of our souls, to relearn, or to learn for the first time, how to see rightly by means of the light of faith. May we, who yearn like the blind man to be freed from the ills that afflict us, also like him receive in patient waiting the fullness of faith that God bestows to us over the whole course of our lives.

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