“Do you believe that I can do this?”
The gospel today recounts a miraculous curing of two blind men by Jesus. The blind men beg Jesus to take pity on them, and Jesus knows well what they are asking of Him, to cure them of their blindness. Perhaps they had heard that Jesus had cured others of their blindness, and all they really had to ask for was mercy. In Luke’s account of the curing of a blind man, the poor man explicitly responds to a question of Jesus as to what He could do for him by saying, “Lord that I may see.” Those words have a profound meaning when taken in a deeper spiritual sense.
The connection between physical blindness and spiritual blindness is made explicitly in John’s gospel where Jesus cures the blind man and then asks him directly whether he believes in the Son of Man. When the cured man asks, “who is he, sir, that I may believe in him,” Jesus simply says, “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.” Faith is central to both meanings in these Gospels, the miracle of curing the blind, and the possibility of seeing in Christ the Son of Man. In today’s gospel, Jesus asked the man, “Do you believe that I can do this?” And only after the affirmation of the men does he cure them, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” Faith is the beginning of the cure of these men, and the same is true in Luke 18, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”
The spiritual meaning of these particular miracles is captured in St. Thomas Aquinas’ theological axiom that “faith is the beginning of vision.” The vision he speaking about, of course, is the Beatific Vision in heaven, and his point is that faith is not only the precondition for receiving that vision, but is actually the beginning of our participation in the infinitely deep self-knowledge of God. Already in this life we come to know God partially as He knows Himself fully, and this knowledge comes through the vision of faith. However, in Psalm 27, which we also pray in today’s Mass, the psalmist longs for this higher vision when he asks, “That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD.” To gaze upon something is far more than “seeing through a glass darkly” which Paul describes as the vision of faith. It is that perfect vision that man longs for deep in his heart.
This desire is captured by St. Anselm in his book, Proslogion, which provides a passage for the 2nd reading in today’s divine office and nicely complements the gospel. He takes these words from that same Psalm 27 for his meditation, I seek your face; your face, Lord, I desire. But because God dwells in “light inaccessible,” Anselm confesses “I have never seen you, Lord my God; I do not know your face.” In order to gaze upon the “loveliness of the Lord” it is necessary to see his face. This is the desire of Job and of all the saints, to look upon the face of God. And Anselm goes further, anticipating St. Thomas, in declaring. “I was made in order to see you, and I have not yet done that for which I was made.”
Man was created to see God, that is his “end” from the beginning. Man was made for this purpose above all others. And only God can make this possible for it is infinitely beyond man’s natural capacities. Anselm declares this in his meditation, saying “for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor can I find you unless you show yourself to me.” Only God can make this greatest of miracles possible, the miracle of seeing God face to face, which is only intimated in the miracles where Jesus cures the blind.
How this takes all place is far beyond anyone’s comprehension in this life, but that it takes place is a defined matter of faith. Indeed, we can hear Jesus asking us the same critical question through the question he directs to the blind man, “Do you believe that I can do this?” Only if we answer with the blind man, “yes, Lord” and open ourselves to His Gift, will we attain the very purpose of our existence, and gaze upon the loveliness of God, forever. And this “gazing” will have nothing of the “eternal stare” which some skeptics propose as a way of denigrating the Beatific Vision. For in this vision of God, we shall know all things, including our loved ones, and the full beauty of their being brought to its perfection by God. For me, all this suggests that the vision is something like an infinitely complex kaleidoscope, where God is truly all in all, and yet every piece retains its own being and glory. Like all images, this one too fails, but it helps me, and I thought it might also help you to long to gaze upon His beauty.
Categories: Weekday reflections