1) Opening prayer
God our Father,
you have promised to remain for ever
with those who do what is just and right.
Help us to live in your presence.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Mark 8,22-26
Jesus and his disciples came to Bethsaida, and some people brought to him a blind man whom they begged him to touch.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Then, putting spittle on his eyes and laying his hands on him, he asked, 'Can you see anything?'
The man, who was beginning to see, replied, 'I can see people; they look like trees as they walk around.'
Then he laid his hands on the man's eyes again and he saw clearly; he was cured, and he could see everything plainly and distinctly. And Jesus sent him home, saying, 'Do not even go into the village.'
• The Gospel today gives an account of the cure of a blind man. This episode of a cure constitutes the beginning of a long instruction of Jesus to the disciples (Mk 8, 27 to 10,45) and then ends with the cure of another blind man (Mk 10, 46-52). In this broader context, Mark suggests to the readers that those who are truly blind are Peter and the other disciples. All of us are blind! They do not understand the proposal of Jesus when he spoke about the suffering and the cross. Peter accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but not as a suffering Messiah (Mk 8, 27-33). He was also affected by the propaganda of the time which only spoke of a messiah, of a glorious king. Peter seemed to be blind. He understood nothing, but wanted Jesus to be as he wanted.
• The Gospel today indicates how difficult it was to cure the first blind man. Jesus had to cure this man in two different stages. The cure of the disciples was also difficult. Jesus had to give a long explanation concerning the significance of the Cross to help them understand, because what really produced blindness in them was the Cross.
• In the year 70, when Mark wrote, the situation of the communities was not easy. There was much suffering, many crosses. Six years before, in 64, the Emperor, Nero had decreed the first great persecution, and many Christians were killed. In the year 70, in Palestine, the Romans were destroying Jerusalem. In the other countries, a great tension between the converted Jews and the non-converted Jews was beginning. The greatest difficulty was the Cross of Jesus. The Jews thought that a crucified person could not be the Messiah who was so awaited by the people, because the law affirmed that all the crucified persons should be considered persons condemned by God (Dt 21, 22-23).
• Mark 8, 22-26: The cure of a blind man. They brought a blind man, asking Jesus to cure him. Jesus cured him, but in a different way. First of all he took him outside the village. Then he put some spittle on the eyes, he placed his hands on him and asked: Do you see something? The man answered: I see men; in fact, they seem like trees that walk! He could see only in part. He exchanged trees for persons, or persons for trees! Only in a second moment Jesus cures the blind man and prohibits him to enter the village. Jesus did not want an easy propaganda.
• As it has been said, this description of the cure of the blind man acts as an introduction to the long instruction of Jesus to cure the blindness of the disciples, and at the end he finishes with the cure of another blind man, Bartimaeus. In reality the blind man was Peter. We are all blind. Peter did not want the commitment of the Cross! And we, do we understand the significance of suffering in life?
• Between the two cures of the blind men (Mk 8, 22-26 and Mk 10, 46-52), is found a long instruction on the Cross (Mk 8, 27 to 10, 45). It seems a catechism, made of phrases of Jesus himself. He speaks about the Cross in the life of the disciple. The long instruction consists of three announcements of the Passion. The first one is that of Mark 8, 27-38. The second is of Mark 9, 30-37. The third one is in Mark 10, 32-45. Between the first one and the second, there is a series of instructions which indicate the type of conversion that should take place in the life of those who accept Jesus, Messiah Servant (Mk 9, 38 to 10, 31):
Mk 8, 22-26: the cure of a blind man
Mk 8, 27-38: first announcement of the Cross
Mk 9, 1-29: instructions to the disciples on the Messiah Servant
Mk 9, 30-37: second announcement of the Cross
Mk 9, 38 to 10, 31: instructions to the disciples on conversion
Mk 10, 32-45: third announcement of the Cross
Mk 10, 46-52: the cure of the blind man Bartimaeus
The whole of this instruction has as a background the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. From the beginning to the end of this long instruction, Mark tells us that Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem, where he is going to suffer his death (Mk 8, 27; 9, 30.33; 10, 1.17.32). The full understanding of the following of Jesus is not obtained by theoretical ideas, but by the practical commitment, walking like him along the way of service, from Galilee up to Jerusalem. Any one who insists in keeping the idea of Peter, that is, of a glorious Messiah without the cross, will understand nothing and will never be able to have the attitude of a true disciple. He will continue to be blind, exchanging persons for trees (Mk 8, 24). Because without the cross it is impossible to understand who Jesus is and what it means to follow Jesus.
The journey of the following is the road of the gift of self, of abandonment, of service, of availability, of acceptance of conflict, knowing that there will be resurrection. The cross is not an accident on the way, but forms part of this road. Because in a world organized beginning from egoism, love and service can exist only crucified! Anyone who makes of his life a service to others, disturbs, bothers those who lived attached to privileges, and suffer.
4) Personal questions
• All believe in Jesus. But some understand him in one way, others in another. Today, which is the most common Jesus according to the way of thinking of people? How does propaganda interfere in the way of seeing Jesus? What do I do so as not to be drawn by the deceit of the propaganda?
• What does Jesus ask the persons who want to follow him? Today, what prevents you from recognizing and assuming the project of Jesus?
5) Concluding prayer
Lord, who can find a home in your tent,
who can dwell on your holy mountain?
Whoever lives blamelessly, who acts uprightly,
who speaks the truth from the heart. (Ps 15,1-2)