Image: Healing the Blind Man, Vaclav Manes [CC BY-SA 4.0]
Have you ever wondered why sometimes it is so difficult to follow the Lord? Is it the Lord, perfect in all things, that is difficult, or is it our own fallen self that makes it difficult to follow perfection?
The truth is that we cannot follow the Lord without His Divine help. I have a few thoughts to deal with this difficulty and how we might find help from the Lord to heal us so that we can truly be a disciple and follow the Lord without our maladies getting in the way of the Kingdom. A great exercise is to think about all those in the Gospels who were called in some way to follow Jesus, but were hampered by illness, handicaps, or even death. There are many kinds of ailments that we see adversely affecting people in the Gospels. However, Jesus heals every one of them for those who have faith, either their own (e.g., the hemorrhaging woman in Mark 5:34) or the faith of others interceding for them (e.g., the paralytic in Mark 2:5).
The Spiritually Disabled
There are some very real connections with the diseases, disabilities, demonic possessions, and deaths that Jesus healed, and current spiritual ailments that prevent many people from following Jesus and entering the Kingdom of God. I want to be clear that in a literal sense, Jesus really did heal the people of the Gospels from real diseases, he really cast out demons, and he really raised people from the dead. But there is also an allegorical and moral sense to Scripture (see CCC 117). The people who were healed also represent people in our society today who suffer from spiritual ailments, as real as physical ailments, but less visible to the naked eye. Physical ailments will not keep anyone from being joined one day in eternity with Jesus, but spiritual disease can and does lead to spiritual death and eternal separation.
Could each disease and ailment that Jesus healed in the Gospels point in some way to some type of spiritual hindrance they represent? It is amazing how fruitful this meditative exercise can be. For instance, think about the blind and the deaf Jesus healed and think what a spiritual modern-day counterpart might be.
What is even more helpful is to realize that the people that are afflicted in Scripture with different maladies did not bring these conditions on themselves, but often times in spiritual maladies like spiritual blindness, we bring the condition on ourselves through the disposition of our heart. Jesus is the solution to all these maladies preventing one from entering the kingdom of God. If we can understand these spiritual hindrances and know that Jesus heals them, we may be better able open our hearts to the Great Healer, to let Him repair our brokenness so that we might come closer to Him and be sanctified in our journey along the way with Him.
Here, I would like to start out by examining spiritual blindness and Jesus’ healing of it. We see many who are spiritually blind in the Gospels—blind to the Truth. The spiritually blind hear the truth, but they cannot see what it means. They cannot see the “big picture” of salvation, and they are unable to see how it applies in their own life. They have trouble confessing the truth because they have difficulty believing what they cannot see. They are always in fear of an attack because they dwell in darkness, and naturally, anyone moving in darkness is subject to possibly being met with an aggressive attack of the unknown.
The fear present in those who are spiritually blind sometimes brings on a reflexive counter-response when they are exposed to the bright penetrating light of truth. They cannot see the light of the truth; although it enters their eyes and travels to their souls, their hearts have hardened to it and can even be further hardened by the heat and light of it. As St. Paul describes it, “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Ephesians 4:18).
Modern atheism is evidence of this as it has turned from passive non-belief to radical aggressive action, perceiving as a threat and attacking anything and anyone who professes to have faith. Nearly fifty percent of people murdered since recorded history began have been murdered in the last 120 years in the name of atheism (Communist and Nazi regimes), this is not to even mention the millions of abortions that have occurred through atheistic policy (“Just How Many People Has Religion Killed?” Kirk Durston, National Director, New Scholars Society).
Shining a Light
Those who aggressively reject the truth, who claim there is no truth to what they cannot see, can become tiresome and a burden to those around them. The temptation is strong to cut all ties to them and allow them to wallow in their darkness, or even to return evilness in kind. In Leviticus 19:14 the Children of Israel are specifically charged not to put a stumbling block before the blind but are to fear the Lord. To fear the Lord is to have reverence and respect for God, which includes being faithful to His Commandments. We can take this as instruction in how we are to respond to the spiritually blind, not with aggressiveness or hate, but with love—to love them as Christ has loved us, even in the face of great difficulty or tumult.
How are we to deal with those who reject the truth because they cannot see it? In Isaiah 42:6 The Lord reminds us that we are called in righteousness to be a light to the nations, “to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” It is through faithfulness to the Lord and his Word that we become a light to those who are blind. We cannot force them to see, but we rely on the Lord to make us shine a light that will help bring sight to them.
In the Gospels, we see Jesus take a special interest in healing the blind. In fact, Jesus heals more blind people than those with any other infirmity. We learn that spiritual blindness comes from having a hardness of heart; this was the main problem with the Pharisees as evidenced by Matthew 23. They could not see the Truth although He was standing right in front of them. Blindness seems in John 9:32 to be one of the most difficult infirmities to cure as it was never seen to have happened since the world began. Spiritual blindness can be just as difficult to cure because it relies upon a change of heart, a softening of the heart, which can only occur through the miraculous intervention of the Lord.
“For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.” —Matthew 13:15
Thanks be to God that he specializes in healing hearts and opening the eyes of the spiritually blind. Let us pray for an understanding heart to bring us healing and the full beauty of sight that Christ has given to us.