Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
There was a time in my life (my teenage years) when I was "sure" I would not get married, for a variety of reasons. Marriage seemed too scary because of its long-term commitment; marriage meant I would have to think about another person besides myself and that seemed difficult; marriage seemed too "adult." When I eventually meet someone and decide to marry, I remember having a conversation with a friend about a week before the wedding. I told my friend it was still difficult to imagine being married - the largeness and longevity of the expectations of marriage seemed overwhelming. To this day, I remember her answer word for word: "But Jana, you can imagine being married to Joel, right?" In that instant, all my fears went away and I felt at peace. My perception of marriage changed. Marriage, as an abstract institution, was indeed scary. But marriage to a specific person, the specific person that I knew and loved - that I could see.
Today's scriptures ask us to ponder similar kinds of perception changes. We are asked to make a direct contrast between the story of Adam and Eve eating from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:1-8) and the story of a deaf mute being healed by Jesus (Mark 7:31-37). In both scripture passages, perceptions change. Adam and Eve have their eyes opened because they eat the fruit, but their eyes are not opened toward God. Rather, the serpent's worldly sensibilities make them aware of things that God would rather they not know. Suddenly, they become ashamed of each other and afraid of God, so much so that they hide from each other (by wearing clothes) and they hide from God when God walks in the garden.
It is easy to be like Adam and Eve today, with our perceptions attuned more to the world's sensibilities than to God. This happens often: we think we cannot get married, or have children, because we are afraid of the changes and afraid of what it would be like to "know" about that phase of life. We are afraid to try a new job or meet new people or finish school or move to a different city or any number of other things. And quite often when we are afraid in those times it is because other well-meaning people have asked us to second guess ourselves or God's nudges toward the changes - a bit like the serpent causes Adam and Eve to second guess themselves. (And sometimes we ourselves ARE those well-meaning people).
By contrast, notice that in the gospel passage Jesus takes the deaf mute away from the crowds, away from the world that might cause the man to doubt himself. Jesus opens the man's senses, similar to how Adam and Eve's senses were opened. This time, though, the senses are reoriented toward God rather than toward the world's cares and fears. The man's perceptions change, and with that perception change he and everyone else there that day realizes that Jesus is the Son of God.
What are the things in your life holding you back from seeing or hearing Jesus? What perception changes do you need today?
- Jana M. Bennett