16 Nov – Memorial of Dedication of Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
Thank you for journeying with us all this while. The liturgical year is coming to an end, and the OXYGEN team would like to invite interested writers to contribute a reflection or two for the Christmas mass readings at the end of this year. If you feel called to put the sharing of your faith into writing, please do drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
The OXYGEN team
1 Maccabees 1:10-15,41-43,54-57,62-64
There grew a sinful offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus; once a hostage in Rome, he became king in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks. It was then that there emerged from Israel a set of renegades who led many people astray. ‘Come,’ they said ‘let us reach an understanding with the pagans surrounding us, for since we separated ourselves from them many misfortunes have overtaken us.’ This proposal proved acceptable, and a number of the people eagerly approached the king, who authorised them to practise the pagan observances. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, such as the pagans have, disguised their circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant, submitting to the heathen rule as willing slaves of impiety.
Then the king issued a proclamation to his whole kingdom that all were to become a single people, each renouncing his particular customs. All the pagans conformed to the king’s decree, and many Israelites chose to accept his religion, sacrificing to idols and profaning the sabbath. The king erected the abomination of desolation above the altar; and altars were built in the surrounding towns of Judah and incense offered at the doors of houses and in the streets. Any books of the Law that came to light were torn up and burned. Whenever anyone was discovered possessing a copy of the covenant or practising the Law, the king’s decree sentenced him to death.
Yet there were many in Israel who stood firm and found the courage to refuse unclean food. They chose death rather than contamination by such fare or profanation of the holy covenant, and they were executed. It was a dreadful wrath that visited Israel.
As Jesus drew near to Jericho there was a blind man sitting at the side of the road begging. When he heard the crowd going past he asked what it was all about, and they told him that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by. So he called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ The people in front scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and ordered them to bring the man to him, and when he came up, asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Sir,’ he replied ‘let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.’ And instantly his sight returned and he followed him praising God, and all the people who saw it gave praise to God for what had happened.
When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God
One of my favorite TV shows growing up was Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I watched religiously every Saturday evening. Each week, the show chronicled the adventures of the USS Enterprise crew as they traveled around the universe discovering new life and new civilizations and boldly going where no one had gone before. A critical, but oftentimes forgotten character was the ship’s chief engineer, Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge. La Forge was born blind but wore a prosthetic VISOR designed to detect electromagnetic waves and heat signatures and transmit these patterns back to La Forge’s mind. He could then mentally process these into images, giving him the ability to see the entire spectrum and hence had better vision than everyone else in the crew. Actor LeVar Burton, who played La Forge’s character, commented about his experience with the VISOR:
“It’s pretty much a living hell… 85 to 90 per cent of my vision is taken away when the VISOR goes on… I bumped into everything the first season – Light stands, overhead microphones, cables at my feet – I tripped over it all… So it’s a sort of conundrum – the blind man, who puts on the VISOR and sees much more than everyone else around him, when the actor actually does that he’s turned into a blind person.”
As we reflect on today’s gospel reading, there are a number of questions that spring to mind. First, why is the man blind to begin with? Is this the act of a loving, all mighty God? In the book of John, Jesus addresses this issue when he comes across another man blind from birth. It states:
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9: 1- 5).
Second, who is it really that was blind and needed healing? Is it the beggar who faithfully calls out to Jesus or is it the crowd who rebukes him? Although physically unable to see, the blind man uses his other senses to detect the presence of the Lord and calls out to Him in a plea for mercy. He knows he needs Jesus, who is the only one who can save him. Yet the crowd, with all their senses intact, struggle to see Jesus for who He really is – the Messiah.
And lastly – who was it that actually gets healed? The blind man who now sees or the crowd that now believes? Oftentimes, we look for answers to questions that are beyond our human comprehension. We’re blind and ignorant to the greater plan that God has installed. But we need to have faith, like the blind man who had faith. We need to seek Jesus and lay our concerns down at his feet. For Paul reminds us… So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)
(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)
Thanksgiving – Heavenly Father, we give thanks for all the wonders that You have given us to see and all the mysteries that we’re to seek and encounter.
Prayer – Lord, we pray for the strength and courage to take off the VISORS that give us a false view of the world. Help us along on our continuous journey to boldly discover You across space and time.