Sunday, Oct 25
Mark has us at the end of Jesus' journey, fateful journey, to Jerusalem. The last story Mark chooses to tell is a story about the cure of a blind man. In itself, the cure is one more testimony to the immense power of Jesus, a power which Peter had earlier claimed could only be that of the Messiah. It is also a story that emphasizes the value of faith - faith, the quality that unites one to Jesus in such fashion that his response to faith is healing. It is also a story which has a rather unusual ending; the man cured not only saw, but he followed Jesus on the way. This last phrase suggests that, together with faith, the man begins to live with Jesus, to 'follow him' on his dangerous way into Jerusalem.
This last-mentioned 'following him on his way', on the way of the cross to glory, is to be placed within the greater context of Mark's rendition of Jesus' public life. We are in the second half of the Gospel now. Notice that in the first part of the Gospel, we read of many miracles, and of wisdom, and of holiness, with great crowds following Jesus; there was no overt mention or prophecy of Jesus' death, though Mark has alerted us to the fact that some in Israel wanted Jesus dead. In general, Mark has shown, up to Peter's statement that Jesus is Messiah, a consistent argument that grounds belief that Jesus is 'Messiah, Son of God' (Mark 1,1) and shows the joyfulness of Israel at his presence among them.
With the second half of the Gospel, most all of these traits disappear. After Peter's confession there is no more great crowds to follow Jesus. Rather, the atmosphere is saddened by the three-fold prophecy of crucifixion. Jesus restricts himself to teaching only his own disciples, principally the Twelve. Miracles are now at a minimum. Indeed, what should have been for a Jew a joyous journey to the great Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread in holy Jerusalem is one filled with trepidation.
Within this climate of the second half of the Gospel, we are to place our cure of a blind man. This context suggests that we are to interpret this cure not simply as a manifestation of power, but as a symbol of the need for faith to overcome the expectations of difficulties in the life which follows Christ. "To see" is what everyone needs in order to better handle the challenges of being a follower of Jesus. We can never see fully how the all-loving God, our Father as Jesus insists He is, can let one who believes in Him suffer. Where is God's love in my suffering? The Christian, by definition, knows that God is only good; it follows that when suffering, I must find some other explanation of God's role in my suffering than saying He has abandoned me. Jesus finally had to trust his Father; he never wanted to die, but then he never doubted that behind his Father's will was only love for him. Such is the conviction of the Christian who has faith in the divine Jesus and willingly follows him 'on his way'.
John Kilgallen, SJ