Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Spirituality: Bam! Bam! Bam!

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 26, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Michael Savelesky In an effort to improve my culinary skills I have found myself watching snippets of an increasingly popular cooking show, Emeril Live. Many “bachelors” like me certainly have taken refuge in his televised kitchen set as he inspires us to mature from spreading peanut butter sandwiches to preparing béarnaise sauce for almond-stuffed breast of pheasant.

Not only is Emeril Lagasse an excellent chef; he also is a delightful actor. After deftly swinging pot, pans, bowls and dishes from one stage of food preparation to another, he dramatically flicks a finishing touch of spice or decoration on top of his masterpiece. His wildly gestured Bam! Bam! Bam! has become a theatrical trademark. Even the kindergartners at our parish school are familiar with it!

The dramatic Bams! seem to excite the instantaneous transformation of ordinary foodstuffs into attractive and droolingly delicious dishes. True culinary miracles!

As I surfed recently through yet another episode of Emeril Live it occurred to me that his well-known display may in subtle (or maybe not-subtle ways) affect the way we picture the miracles of Jesus....

Think of it: a Jesus Live! Did Jesus work miracle after miracle, finishing each off with a wildly gesticulated Bam! Bam! Bam!? Instant transformation of disease and sickness into dancing joy and fullness of health!

There is no question that Jesus was a miracle worker. Even the secular historians of his era report him as such. The Gospels each portray him as a man of God who has set about the restoration of Israel – if not the whole of humankind – to its original goodness. His miracles are not so much the display of divine power as they are the manifestation of God’s will for a broken world: that we be made whole and walk faithfully in the glory of God’s sons and daughters.

At least that seems to be the common picture of the Savior’s ministry of miracles. He engages in no antics or theatrical demonstrations; he mouths no magic words; rather, he simply wills wholeness to be and, one with the One who sent him, it is. And it is good!

This picture of the ordinary miracle-working Jesus seems to be challenged, however, by the record of an unusual miracle story in Mark’s Gospel (8:22).

Mathew, Luke and John make no mention of it. At first it seems like a simple miracle story: the healing of blind man. But in this particular scene the man does not recover his sight immediately. So much for the Bam! Bam! Bam! picture of a Jesus Live!

Jesus lays hands a second time before the blind man’s sight is fully recovered. At first it appears that Jesus has become unplugged from his source of healing power. He has to try again.

Actually, it is we who have to try again. The setting of the scene tells the full story – and provides us with a solid challenge to maturation in Christian spirituality. This miracle story comes at the close of a section in Mark’s Gospel where the disciples are still befuddled by the works of Jesus. They have seen much of him by then, but still do not understand. They have seen much of Jesus but still do not see. They do not “get it.” They still do not comprehend who he is and what he is about

In that context, the blind man becomes a obvious paradigm for each and every one of us disciples of Jesus. Just think of the time we have been with him. For some of us the years are starting to be counted in scores! How many times over all those years has Jesus touched us and sought to bring us the true sight of faith? Just think of the sacraments celebrated, the sermons heard, the hours of prayer and Scripture reading, the cumulative years spent in religious education or Catholic school classrooms.

Yes. Jesus has touched us often. Perhaps along the way there have been a few Bam! Bam! Bam! experiences of God’s amazing, saving grace. But do we yet see fully who Jesus is? Like the blind man in Mark’s Gospel, perhaps we have come to see only a bit more clearly – but not clearly enough. We need yet more touches of grace.

In the four Gospels it takes the disciples the entire lifetime of Jesus to see clearly who he is. In fact, it could be argued that they never get the full picture. An incomplete picture of Jesus is entrusted to a broken and imperfect Church. Maybe the Big Bam will come in heaven! Nevertheless, Jesus continues to touch them – and us – bringing us an ever-clearer picture of God’s loving embrace, the forgiveness of our sins and the restoration of our goodness as sons and daughters of God.

(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane. His book, Catholics Believe, is available from Harcourt Religion Publishers.) (Download an order form in pdf format to print)

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