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Grow into the Sacraments

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

by Fr. David M. Knight

Mark 8:22-26. Year II: James 1:19-27; Psalm 15:2-5.

Jesus has just opened the ears of a deaf man — with a “sigh,” like the sigh the gave when, even after he multiplied the loaves, the Pharisees still asked for a “sign” (7:34, 8:12). Next Mark shows us Jesus giving sight to a blind man. As in the case of the deaf man, a simple word is not enough. Both times Jesus uses preliminary touches and his saliva (7:33, 8:23). Conversion is a gradual process.

God created the universe by a simple word. He said, “Let it be!” and it was (Genesis 1:1-21). But he did not redeem the world that way. The world was messed up by billions of physical, human actions. God chose to come into the world as a human being and start healing it by physical, human actions. This requires us to identify causes and apply remedies that specifically address them. To heal the blind man he touched his eyes. For the deaf man with a speech impediment, he touched his ears and his tongue. On both he used saliva.

Jesus saves by making the life-giving water of his word interior to us (see John 4:14: “The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life”). Water does not give life so long as it remains in the clouds. Nor does God’s word. We have to bring it down to earth. Let it soak in. Bring it into contact with specific problems. Apply it to concrete decisions. Jesus shows this by literally applying the water of his mouth to bodily parts in need of healing. A preview of the sacraments!

Even the sacraments don’t heal by magic. They always have their essential effect if the minister has the right intention and the receiver is properly disposed. No special degree of sanctity is required. But the benefit of the sacraments themselves can be minimal or maximal, depending on how well the humans involved do their part.

And they achieve their full effect gradually, like Jesus’ healing of the blind man. At first he said, “I can see people, but they look like trees walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again and “he saw everything clearly.”

It is the same with sacraments. All require follow-up. We have to keep “remembering” them, thinking about them, growing into them. Baptism is not just a single event; like marriage, it is ongoing. Every sacrament is a launching pad that gives an impetus we must refresh, a direction to maintain, a goal to keep in mind.

Initiative: Think. What do the “sacraments of initiation” initiate? What do the other four initiate? What follow-up does each require?

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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