Acts 9:1-20; John 6:52-59
How often has someone said to you, “You’re as blind as a bat,” and no reference to your eyes was intended? The reference is not to outside sight but to inside sight or insight. When we say “I see” in response to an explanation, we never mean we see something with our eyes; we mean we understand the explanation. Visual seeing is frequently a metaphor for understanding, not only in our culture but also in the Hebrew culture in which the Bible was written.
The real miracle involved in the cure of the man born blind lies not in what he comes to see with the outsight of his eyes but what he comes to understand with his insight, that Jesus is a prophet, a man from God (John 9: 17, 33). So it is too with Saul of Tarsus. He persecutes Jesus in his followers, because he is blind as a bat, he has absolutely no insight into who Jesus is. The only cure for such blindness is to come to understanding or insight. For Saul, that insight comes when scales fall, not from his physical eyes with which he will never ever see who Jesus truly is, but from his inner eyes. Under the tutelage of Ananias, like John’s man born blind he comes to understand that this Jesus is the Messiah from God, that his teachings are from God, and that he, Saul, should live a life modeled on the words and the life of Jesus. He “sees,” he comes to believe, and he is baptized.
If seeing is a biblical metaphor for understanding, so too is eating a metaphor for making the understanding part of oneself and being energized to live by it. In his prophetic vision, Ezekiel is given a scroll by the Lord and told to eat it and go preach the words he has eaten. That preaching, of course, is not only in spoken words but also in concrete actions. The second reading suggests the same thing. The multitude which was fed with five barley loaves and two fish wanted to carry Jesus off and make him king. They were as blind as Saul. They did not understand who Jesus was, they had no insight, they did not believe; their eating was useless for the fueling of life. For genuine life to follow the eating of the scroll or the eating of Jesus, insight must follow, understanding must follow, believing must follow. Jesus promises eternal life not simply to him and her who eat, be it manna from heaven or Jesus in eucharist, but to all who believe. Believing is the metaphorical eating, of the message of Jesus so that it becomes the fuel of a life lived like Jesus, in repeated acts of love, justice, compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation, communion, and peace. It is such eating, such acts of lived belief, that remove scales from blind eyes and yield the insight that Jesus is from God and the following of Jesus leads to God. Today’s readings offer a clear option. Do we want to eat manna only and die to Christ, or do we want to eat the scroll of Jesus’ life and live like him in our everyday deeds? Jesus does not leave us to make the choice alone. He offers a powerful carrot: “The one who eats this bread [of Jesus’ life] will live forever.”
By Mike Lawler