By eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened, and they realized they were naked before God. By a miracle, Jesus opened the man’s ears, and he began to hear and speak clearly. Both of these narratives about the awakening of physical senses, speak to us of truths that go deeper than the images they present.
Just how much of the early Genesis narratives should be taken literally, and how literally they should be taken, can be a controversial topic. However, at least one thing is theologically clear: the first human beings disobeyed God and lost some of the special gifts God had given them. They and their descendants would pay the price by suffering ignorance, by suffering pain and illness, by having to work to survive, by struggling with their passions, and by dying. They no longer had the right to be in God’s presence before or after death.
The Gospel reading can be taken quite literally. Jesus performed many miracles of physical healing, both to help the people be freed from illness and disease, and as a sign of the spiritual mission He came to fulfill. He didn’t just open the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind; He opened the gates of heaven to us. He redeemed us and made reparation for the sin of Adam and Eve. He didn’t get rid of all the effects of original sin – we still have to work for a living, to struggle to understand and manage our world, to fight sinful desires, and to suffer physical death. However, He gave us the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation, through which our sins are forgiven and we can have eternal life in God’s presence after our physical death. We also have the promise that, when God chooses to put an end to this world, all those who died in God’s grace will be raised from the dead in a new heaven and a new earth. Their bodies (and hopefully ours among them) will be glorified and free from all suffering and temptation to sin.
God also gave us someone very special who embodies all these promises: Mary. She is called the new Eve, because she was a new beginning for humanity. She was conceived without sin by the merits of her Son, the Redeemer of us all. She gave us an example of perfect love and dedication to Jesus her son. At the end of her earthly life, she was assumed body and soul into God’s presence in heaven, where she has a special right to her Son’s attention as she intercedes for us. And God has willed that she appear to visionaries, like she did to St Bernadette at Lourdes, and work countless miracles of healing and conversion. Just today at the 12:10 Mass at St Patrick’s, I met a man who told me of his own miracle. He had been in the hospital in a coma, as the result of two strokes and a seizure. In his unconscious state, he saw Our Lady of Lourdes – as portrayed in his family’s statue of her – with his mother and grandmother, who had both died. Mary stroked his face, and he woke up immediately and recovered fully.
Let us thank God today for coming to save us from sin and give us eternal life. And let us thank Him for the gift of Mary, His Mother and our Mother, who appeared at Lourdes as an ambassador of God’s love to bring us healing and faith, to teach us penance and prayer, and to guide us to her Son.