In a recent gospel reading Jesus gives sight to a man born blind by mixing spittle with dirt and rubbing the mud thus created on the fellow’s eyes. This passage from the Gospel of John is rich with symbolism: the exalted imagery of light, representing the creative power of God, and the mundane imagery of soil, reminding us that we come from the dust of the earth and to that dust we’re destined to return.
The story is a wonderful expression of renewal, which is why it’s read during this time leading up to Easter, which celebrates resurrection, rebirth, new beginnings. It recounts something Jesus actually did and the miraculous way in which he did it.
Miracles do happen. And the one recounted in this gospel reading seems timely, as we grope our way, rather blindly, through the current pandemic crisis.
We need miracles right now. And indeed, we have them, if only we will look and see.
Most times, God works through human beings to accomplish His designs. Scripture notes how the Apostles were granted miraculous abilities. And over the centuries since Bible times, various saints have been empowered to carry out the divine will in extraordinary ways.
God does hear our prayers. And now and then, He breaks through into our world to show us His power.
In our own time, He has given our scientists, medical professionals, and health workers certain gifts and knowledge by which they strive to keep us healthy and serve us when we’re sick. And while we don’t often think about it in such terms — taken as we are by the “Rationalism” that’s been dominant since the so-called “Enlightenment” —what these very special people are capable of doing is truly miraculous.
Along with scientific discoveries and medical procedures, there’s something else we need in order to overcome the current pandemic challenge. And it too may take a certain kind of miracle. We have to rise above partisan politics.
The men and women we’ve elected to oversee the protection of our safety and our freedom represent competing parties, ideological agendas and visions of governance. Throughout our history, and especially during recent administrations, they’ve fought hard to advance their programs.
But there have been periods in our national life when it was necessary to suppress partisanship in order to meet some profound common threat. Right now is such a period.
This is no time for politics — and surely, no time to exploit crisis conditions to gain advantage or further the interests of specific constituencies. We must rely on the good judgment, honesty, and devotion of our leaders to carry out the duties for which they were elected. Let us pray that officials at all levels of government — local, state, federal — will approach their responsibilities in a truly bipartisan manner.
This difficult time is an opportunity to grow in faith. And we can do that by contemplating the realities of suffering and death which the pandemic has presented to us.
Of course, suffering and death are things we don’t like to think about. But we all face those eventual prospects. And this moment, when we’re all confronting a great health crisis together, may prove to be a rare instance of shared understanding and compassion that can influence our society for the better and bring us closer to God.
That would be a wonderful Lenten experience — a priceless compensation for the sacrifices we’re undergoing as we try to fend off this contagion. It would be something miraculous in itself.
Pray for a miracle.
A priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, Rev. Michael P. Orsi currently serves as parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, Florida. He is host of “Action for Life TV,” a weekly cable television series devoted to pro-life issues, and his writings appear in numerous publications and online journals.