Spiritual Blindness and Healing


Sermon preached by Dn. Jeff Smith on Sunday, July 23, 2023

On Matthew 9:27-35

Good morning!

Today’s gospel is a vivid parable about blindness, dumbness, and healing. We can see today’s blind men as a metaphor for our own blindness and need for healing. Physical blindness may have been common in Jesus’ time. But inner blindness is a much greater handicap. We can be blind to the meaning of life; we can be blind to the nature of our neighbor’s suffering. We can be Blind to the ongoing dynamic of God’s love in the world. And the blind men cried out to Jesus, recognizing him as, “Son of David (a prophet in the line of Kings), have mercy on us.” Though blind, they had the insight to recognize Jesus’ authority and his power to heal them. Jesus replied to them, “do you believe that I am able to do this?” As usual, Jesus could not heal them without their cooperation. And then he touched their eyes and proclaimed, “according to your faith, let it be done to you.” Instantly the sight of the blind men was restored. Their eyes were opened, both literally and metaphorically. Their faith in God demonstrated a deep and primal trust because spiritual healing can never occur without faith and trust. Jesus asks them not to broadcast his cure in quite stern language. “See that no one knows about this,” he said. Jesus feared the burden of popularity. Instead, they went away and spread his fame throughout all that district.

Then a dumb demoniac was brought to Jesus. The Lord was always meeting unending demands from problematic people. This dumb man was mute apparently because of demonic possession. a demon had rendered him unable to speak, but then Jesus cast out the demon, and he was set free from his perversity. The love of Christ pierced his black cloud, leaving astonished, everyone who witnessed his healing. When the demon was cast out, the dumb man spoke, perhaps for the first time, and the crowds marveled. But the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons. This gospel includes al the greatest hits. But Jesus replied to his accusers that a bad tree cannot grow good fruit.  

A word about the crowds: A crowd can arouse excitement. It can feed our pride. It can make us combative. It can quicken a kind of frenzy. But does a crowd fill us with compassion? Well, it did when Jesus looked out at the hungry 5,000 and fed them loaves and fish. Jesus was a healer and he spoke with authority. He embarked on a mission to bring healing and salvation to a wounded world. His compassion implies pain with his love. Jesus saw the people as one without a shepherd. A people who had no one to protect them. The compassion of Christ is so vast and so deep that we are forced to use negative attributes to describe it: it is not patronizing. Jesus’ compassion is not shallow or sentimental. Jesus never pretended that money could solve a man’s problems. He knew that a starving man cannot really hear the Word of God. We need to be fed before we can hear, but Jesus also knew that a full stomach is no guarantee of grace. Jesus feels the pain of suffering, but he adds a cure. His compassion took him to the cross, where he laid down his life for his sheep. But he was not defeated by death. Only in his shielding strength will his flock safely be fed forever in a Eucharist of thanksgiving and grace.

Have you ever noticed, the closer the saints get to God through prayer and fasting, the further away they realize they are? The more they pray and fast, the more they seem to beg for God’s mercy, our most common refrain, having come face to face with their own sin, and their separation from God, from themselves, and from each other. This is in stark contrast to rest of us who blithely wander through life. St. Paul described the law as a curse in Romans because we are not really able to keep it perfectly. The more we attempt to be perfect, the more we realize how far from perfection we are. In fact, St. Paul posited that we cannot really fulfill the law without an intermediary, someone who can fill the gap for us, someone who is willing to sacrifice everything for our sake. This is the meaning of the cross as a bridge from our self-indulgent lives to belonging in a heavenly community.

And this is how today’s gospel ends, with a beautiful summary of Jesus’ ministry: “He went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness. As a teacher, Jesus guided people to the Kingdom of God. He proclaimed the Good News, offering hope, healing, forgiveness, and eternal life. And he healed the sick, demonstrating his compassion and power by healing every disease and infirmity. But Jesus is not just a physical healer; he also spoke with divine authority. Jesus is the source of all healing and restoration. May we, like him, become beacons of light and hope, reflecting his love and grace to everyone we encounter. Amen.