Dec 4 – Memorial for St. John Damascene, priest, doctor of the Church
St. John Damascene was born in Damascus about 675. After holding public office for a time, he withdrew to the monastery of Sabas near Jerusalem. He wrote ‘The Fount of Wisdom’, in which he presented a comprehensive teaching on Christian doctrine, which had great influence on later theology. He died about 750.
- the Weekday Missal
Then he touched their eyes saying, “Your faith deserves it, so let this be done for you.”
One of the silver linings of COVID-19 is that I’ve had the time and the opportunity for reflection. I’ve never thought of myself as an ‘angry person’ before; quite the opposite really, but you don’t know what you are until you are tested. And God tests the heart when you least expect it. Last night, someone put a very large and indelible stain on my brand-new kitchen counter. When I finally noticed it, the culprit confessed that she didn’t say anything to me because she “figured you would notice it for yourself anyway”. When I asked her why she didn’t wipe it off or tell me about it the moment it happened, she gave me a blank look, sighed loudly and walked away. A more evolved Christian would have in that moment, “turned the other cheek”, given her a big hug and assured her that it was all OK. It’s Thanksgiving! No hard feelings! But I had the realization last night that I am not that evolved a Christian. Nope! In fact, I am so far from being evolved, it is a disgrace. This is what it feels like to have my eyes opened — to see with crushing clarity that I AM a wrathful sinner. I AM that person whose anger becomes a gale force, who bears grudges, who holds wrath in her heart.
I guess that’s the thing about blindness isn’t it? The blind person doesn’t know better because she wouldn’t think anything was wrong unless she was living in the land of the seeing. We are blind to our own faults when we’re in the thick of it. We don’t or can’t see. In Dante’s Inferno, the souls who allow anger to consume them are trapped in the putrid, swampy waters of the Styx. They are forced to spend all of eternity biting and clawing at one another. Beneath the surface, more angry souls choke and gurgle, doomed to exist in a perpetual state of near drowning. When I am angry, that’s what it feels like. It is as if I’m drowning. My lungs fill up. My vision and judgment are clouded. I can’t speak or act or think or breathe normally. I want to lash out with harsh words and I am blind to the pain they cause. And that anger begets more anger, until we are all caught in a swampy mess of wrath.
Which brings us to our gospel reading for today. The two blind men, despite their predicament, were able to follow Jesus as he passed by. They were not so blind that they were unaware they could be healed. They cried out, “Son of David, have pity on us!”. And when Jesus asked them, “Do you believe that I can do this?”, their response was a hearty “Yes, Lord”. Not doubt, nor reluctance, nor indifference. Grace was the moment when Jesus passed and paused by them. And though afflicted, they were not so blind that they couldn’t accept grace. That, right there, is the lesson for me. Jesus is passing by and has paused in front of me. He is stretching his arm out to see if I can grasp it and pull myself out of the hateful waters of the Styx. Am I willing and faithful enough to believe that with His grace, I too can be healed of my blindness? That I too, can be healed of the wrath that afflicts my heart?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the self-realization and the clarity to see ourselves, to really see ourselves for what and who we are — sinners who need Jesus to save us from ourselves.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the mercy that God extends to us, that while we were unworthy, faithless and unwilling, He hounded us and never gave up on us.