A World of Talking Trees

“Do you still not understand?”

Jesus’ words about his disciples’ lack of comprehension is followed immediately in Mark’s gospel by the cure of the blind man who gradually sees.Jesus has to lay his hands on the man’s eyes a second time before he sees clearly.Is that the way our own lack of understanding is cured, gradually?

The kind of understanding the gospel speaks about is not something we come to ourselves, no matter how hard we try. It’s a gift Jesus gives.

The cross takes many forms and I wonder if one form it takes in our time is the cross of confusion. We like clear sight for ourselves and everyone else, but in times of great change confusion is inevitable. And a world of “talking trees” is hard to take. Reasonable, resourceful people that we are, it’s humbling to live in confusing times, even demeaning.

It makes us angry. That’s the temptation the Letter of James sees facing Christians in “the dispersion” – the changed world that’s not the world they knew. “Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger for anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God” (James 1, 19)

There’s a lot of anger around us today, the anger that boils over and lashes out, or the anger that retreats into a fortress of resistence and isolation.

The pope spoke of patience the other day. He said patience is what keeps the church going. He spoke of the music of patience, a patience that hears and waits, like the patient blind man who waits for the hand of Jesus to reach out again.

“When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida,
people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.
Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked,
“Do you see anything?”
Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”
Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly;
his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.
Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”
(Mark 8,22-26)

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