02 December 2005


1st Week of Advent (Fri): Is 29.17-24; Matt 9.27-31
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, University of Dallas

The PR department at Jesus, Inc., a subsidiary of Pepsi-Co/Time-Warner, is very upset with the current CEO, Jesus Christ. He recently went on a publicity tour to promote his latest book, The Gospel, and performed a miraculous healing on two blind men who were waiting in line to touch his garment. After healing the men, according to their faith, Jesus reportedly said to the men, “See that no one knows about this.” The PR department at Jesus, Inc. found out about the miracles when the two recently healed blind men gave an interview to FOXNews and signed a book contract with Simon & Schuster. When asked about the miracle, Jesus said, “I have no comment at this time. We’ll have a prepared statement at the end of business today.” The blind men cited a gag clause in their book contract. Eye-witness accounts are too wild to be believed. Local scientists dismiss the miracles as mass-hypnosis. The ACLU is suing somebody for something.

It is extraordinarily odd that Jesus would tell the healed men to keep quiet about their healing. It seems odd because we live in a publicity soaked culture where everyday occurrences are turned into Events, complete with combative commentary, rote social analysis, and the predictably provocative questions designed to create news rather than report it. That Jesus would heal two blind men and tell them sternly to shut-up about it is just weird. Of course, they should crow about it! They should dance in the streets! Go tell it on the mountains! Do interviews! Write books! And, they do. They disobey Jesus and spread his gospel.

So, why would Jesus order them to silence? The story of the healed blind men is the middle story of three stories of healing. Jesus heals the woman with the chronic hemorrhaging, the blind men, and man made mute by a demon. The news of his power and compassion spread and the crowds grew larger and larger. Looking at the all the work to be done, Jesus orders his disciples to pray for more laborers for the Lord’s harvest. You can imagine that Jesus ordered the blind men to silence because the work of caring for the growing crowds was daunting, exhausting. But that’s not it.

That this reading from Matthew comes to us during Advent is no accident. It exemplifies for us what Advent is to be: a time of tension between need and fulfillment, emptiness and satisfaction. We celebrate and endure Advent, waiting on an edge with our dis-ease for the healing of the coming of the Lord. The Swiss theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, writes: “The creature is a perpetual question addressed to God.” During Advent the human creature lives in a twilight time before the divine falls into flesh, asking of the Lord, “Son of David, have pity on us!” The order to a seasonal silence before the celebration of the Incarnation is the Church’s way of living out our nature as a question to God; we ask and wait, we plead and anticipate.

This time of dawning light is also a time for Jesus to look at us and ask, “Do you believe that I can do this?” Do you trust me to take on your flesh, your suffering, your sin, your death? Do you trust that I will freely accept human form, living as man among you, and die for your healing? We say, “Yes, Lord!” The time between the time we say yes to the Lord and Jesus says, “Let it be done according to your faith” is the deepest silence, the longest season; it is the yawning stop of Advent, the slow tick-tick-tick-tick-tick of life lived waiting on the coming of the Lord.

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