You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has power to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act - they will be blessed in their doing.
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Lord, who shall dwell on your holy mountain?
He who walks without fault;
he who acts with justice and speaks the truth from his heart;
he who does not slander with his tongue. (R./)
He who does no wrong to his brother,
who casts no slur on his neighbour,
who holds the godless in disdain.
but honours those who fear the Lord. (R./)
He who keep his pledge, come what may;
who takes no interest on a loan
and accepts no bribes against the innocent.
Such a man will stand firm for ever. (R./)
They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Can you see anything?" And the man looked up and said, "I can see people, but they look like trees, walking." Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, "Do not even go into the village."
The cure of the blind man suggests that our spiritual enlightenment is a gradual process of coming to understand what God wants of us, or our mission in life. Saint James offers a challenging set of moral ideals to get us started. We must be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger and rid ourselves of all sort of wickedness. We need to be doers of the word and not merely hearers of it. We must bridle our tongues, care for people in need and keep ourselves “unstained by the world.” Phew!
Today’s healing miracle is reported only by St Mark. The fact that it is not retold by Matthew or Luke, even though they repeat most of Mark’s miracle stories, is probably because it’s the only healing that takes place in stages. At first, after touching the man’s eyes with saliva, Jesus has only half cured the blind man. The man blinks and can see the vague shapes of people, “but they look like trees, walking.” It was only after Jesus fully laid his hands on him that the man was fully healed. There’s probably a lesson here for ourselves regarding any kind of therapy. We are healed by stages. One senses the compassion of Jesus in this story. We was filled with pity for the man’s disability, but he comforted the blind man with the clasp of his hand and touch of his fingers. How fully he understands and adapts himself to our human needs.
This healing suggests the stages of our own growth to spiritual maturity. We may need the Lord to rub spittle on our eyelids, to bring us to a more compassionate view of life. He can then gently lay hands on us until we get full insight and see everything in a new light. Could we find more practical ways of helping others, finding the time and the resources to serve where we are needed.
Thinking about growth and development, the advice of St James makes more sense. He urges us to “welcome the word that has taken root in you, with power to save you.” We are meant to live the faith actively, not as a purely verbal faith. This James has a stern morality: “Act on this word. If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves.”
We cannot walk this path without help, but must let ourselves be led, like the blind man whom Jesus took by the hand. His hand is leading us to salvation, just as Jesus led the blind man into a new way of seeing the world.