All of us have had some pain or some illness in life. This is part of our human experience. Ever since the first sin, the sin of the first humans, God has allowed us to suffer and die. We do not suffer by God’s hands, but he allows the fallen angels who hate him and his creation to introduce sufferings for us. He allows this because suffering actually helps us draw close to God and turn to him for salvation. One day he will take away all suffering, and this will happen when Christ comes again.
Salvation includes physical healing, healing of our bodies, minds, and of all creation. In the first reading God told Isaiah to encourage the people saying, “Here is your God, he comes to save you.” He will give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, full restoration of the body, and not only to the body, but to all of creation. He says, “Streams will burst forth in the desert, thirsty ground will become springs of water.” That’s relevant to our drought, yes? A full restoration is promised when our God comes to save us. We know through scripture, when Christ comes again, there will be a resurrection of our bodies, and there will be a new heaven, and a new earth.
But even with Christ’s first coming, already he was giving us a foretaste of our future, he was working miracles of restoration. We hear in today’s Gospel of Christ’s healing of the man who was deaf and mute. Where ever Christ is there is restoration and healing, and so even now, there are foretastes, foreshadowings, miracles on earth, but not in the complete and total way of his second coming. Current miracles, current healings are allusions of salvation to come, but they are also guarantees of God’s compassionate feelings, his sentiments toward us. And so, there are miracles even now, not on the order that we’ll see in his second coming, because suffering is actually helping all humanity draw closer to salvation.
In Today’s Gospel we see Christ’s compassion for the suffering. People brought a suffering man to him, one whose ears were closed to hearing, and whose mouth was closed to speaking. They brought the man to Jesus, and they begged Jesus to heal him. They were showing compassion to the man by bringing him, and they were showing faith in Jesus by begging for his healing. And the verb here is “to beg”, they were humbling themselves before Jesus. As a foretaste of things to come, Jesus does heal him.
But let us look at the way Jesus heals him. He doesn’t simply say sure, okay, boom, and then walk away. No, scripture says that he “took him away by himself.” He must have walked up to the blind man, spoken some words of invitation to the man to walk with him, and then took him by the arm. He took him to a place of some privacy, to have a one on one encounter with him, he with God and God with him. This shows the great compassion of our God through the person of Jesus. This was no minimal encounter. He begins a little ritual; one which sounds odd to us, of six steps. He put his finger into the man’s ears; he spit on his own fingers and touched the man’s tongue with them; he looked to heaven in prayer; he groaned, a sign of suffering with the man; and finally he spoke a command of healing, “Be opened.” He created a healing experience for this man. Jesus could have simply said, “Be opened” and walked way, but there was an intimate and personal encounter, a sharing of Christ’s humanity with the man. Don’t we all desire the same thing from our Lord?
Finally, let us look at why Jesus may have told the man, and the crowd who was “eavesdropping”, not to tell anyone. We know that Christ was aware that an even greater miracle was at work. God had become man, this god-man was going to suffer and die for our sins, he was going to rise to new life and return to the Father, and we were going to be able to follow him there. This was the miracle that he wanted proclaimed. Yes, he healed the man out of compassion, yes it showed that Jesus had some Godly power, but physical healing, restoration, was not the full proclamation of the Gospel. Christ tells the man and the crowd to be silent so that they would wait for the miracle to come. This is what he wanted proclaimed. Not the minimal restoration of physical ailments. He would first restore and elevate the human soul, before the healing of our bodies and creation, that would come later upon his second coming. Earthly suffering would remain because it has its purpose for our salvation, of the physical he gives us only a foretaste. But of the things of the soul, a greater gift has been given, a universal miracle has been worked. He has restored our souls through the forgiveness of sin, and he has surpassed even this, he has given the Holy Spirit to dwell in them, and a share of his very nature. He has made of us one Body, one Spirit with him, and he groans with us in our suffering.
First things first right? Since suffering has its place in our salvation, God compassionately leaves it in place; he encourages us to petition, even beg, him for this foretaste of things to come because that is its end. Suffering brings humanity close to God and keeps us close. Thus, let us always pray for our physical wellbeing, but let us also realize that the greater good begins within the privacy of our souls where he desires to dwell. As he led the man away, we are led away from the world to a deep experience of him. And as he healed the man through ritual signs and words, he heals our souls through the ritual signs and words of his Bride, the Church. Let us always give thanks to God for this greater miracle that he is working, and proclaim it, for this miracle we have not been told to keep secret.