St. Francis Xavier
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Ss. Domenico e Sisto, Roma
In this age of instant celebrity, it seems more than a little strange to us that Jesus would perform a healing miracle and order those whom he healed to keep the event quiet. These days, the miraculous restoration of the sight of two blind men would attract an incredible amount of media attention, skeptical commentary, and calls for scientific verification. We'd watch theologians, philosophers, and physicians endlessly debate the healing, while Jesus fought off attempts by the government to charge him with medical malpractice and fraud. Of course, none of this would have happened in first century Israel. At the most, Jesus could expect some unwanted attention from the religious authorities and a dramatic increase in the size of the crowds that followed him around. Since his ministry among the poor, blind, lame, and possessed was already drawing attention and the crowds growing daily, it seems more than a little strange that Jesus would command the healed men to be silent about their healing. Isn't the whole point of Jesus' healing miracles to provide evidence of the divine nature of his preaching mission? No, that's not the point at all. In fact, the healing miracles have little to do with providing evidence for Jesus' ministry.
If Jesus' healing of the blind men was meant to provide evidence for the truth of his claims to be the Son of God, then the events of the gospel story this morning would have been very different. The men would have approached Jesus asking for proof of his divine powers. Jesus would have healed them and then asked, “Do you believe that I healed you?” The newly sighted men would have replied, “Yes, we believe!” And then Jesus would have sent them off to spread the news of his healing ministry. Instead, we get just the opposite. First, the men approach Jesus, addressing him as “Son of David,” begging him to show them compassion by curing their blindness. Then Jesus confirms their faith by asking if they they believe he can heal him. They answer, “Yes, Lord.” Yes. Lord. Before Jesus ever touches the men, they acknowledge his identity as the promised Messiah, giving him his due as their Lord. Only after this profession of faith does Jesus lay hands on them, saying, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened. Faith first, then healing.
Jesus “warns them sternly” to be silent about this miracle. Why? It's possible that our Lord wants to keep his identity a secret for a while longer. He might want a little more time to establish himself as a serious preacher before rumors start flying that he is just another one of the many crank magicians or street prophets clogging the cities of Israel. The more likely explanation is that Jesus understands better than we ever can that the most profound healing that can occur to any sinful creature is the healing of our fallen relationship with the Father. From a righteous relationship with God flows all other forms of “rightness,” including physical health. By definition there can be no evidence that compels faith. Good evidence—miracles, for example—might weaken skepticism about God but trust in God comes entirely from His gift of faith and our conscious decision to practice this virtue. Jesus' order to these men to be silent about their healing is his way of saying to them, to the crowds, and to us that faith must precede righteousness. When we say, “Yes, Lord,” we must say it in the absence of compelling evidence and sometimes despite the evidence. Faith based on experience is not faith at all; it's simply a good bet, a gamble that one good experience will likely lead to another.
First comes faith, then righteousness. This is the order of salvation in Christ Jesus. Our lives in Christ will be a witness to this proper ordering. And that will be miracle enough to bring all the blind to sight.
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