A Reflection on the Gospel of Matthew 9:27-31
The Gospel reading can be found at https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120222.cfm
Internet Image of the Healing of the Blind Man by Brian Jekel
Jesus today in the Gospel, is showing us a need for efficacious faith. The Gospel of Matthew Chapter 9 strings together four healings to make this point. The Lord is showing us that faith should not follow our prayer intention, as if it were some form of test of God’s goodness; “God, if You do this, then I will believe.” Instead, faith in God’s goodness must precede the request; “God because I know you can do this have mercy on me.” The blind men received their physical sight because they believed; they did not believe because they received their physical sight. One might say their spiritual sight preceded the cure of their physical blindness. In this, is faith that is efficacious.
The word efficacious is especially important to our faith. The Church defines a Sacrament as
“Efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.” (CCC 1131)
Marriam Webster defines efficacious as; “having the power to produce a desired effect.” For a Sacrament, the visible rite, for example water in baptism, exteriorly washes the baptized but also washes away sin from the soul interiorly. Reception of bread and wine as a host to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, nourishes and sustains life exteriorly as the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ sustains life interiorly. They “signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament.” So too, does faith in God, have the power to “produce the desired effect.”
In Matthew’s Gospel today, we hear of the healing of two blind men. In the Gospel narrative this follows immediately after the raising from the dead of the Synagogue Official’s daughter and the healing of the woman suffering from twelve years of hemorrhages. Jesus’ healing the blind men is followed by the healing of a man who was mute because of demonic possession. In every case there is an act of faith which precedes healing. The Synagogue Official tells Jesus, “But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” (Matthew 9:18) The Official does not doubt that Jesus can raise someone from the dead! For the woman suffering from hemorrhages, “She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” (Matthew 9:21) She does not doubt but is sure, “I shall be cured.” Jesus affirms this when He tells the woman, “Your faith has saved you.” (Matthew 9:22) For the two blind men in the Gospel today, it is the same. Jesus asks the men if they believe that He can heal them, and they say that they do. Jesus tells them, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” (Matthew 9:29) Jesus restores the sight of both men. Again, their faith in God is the operative factor in their healing. Their faith is efficacious.
Even the story of the demoniac who was left mute, speaks to us of efficacious faith. (Matthew 9:32-33) For it is because of the faith in Jesus of those who bring the demoniac for healing that Jesus expels the demon, and the man is no longer mute. The faith of the demoniac’s loved ones fully rested in Jesus’ ability to drive a demon from their friend. Their faith is efficacious.
Jesus, in His boundless love and mercy is already disposed to heal us. He is ready to give us the grace we need. Later in the same chapter from Matthew’s Gospel we hear,
“At the sight of the crowds, [Jesus’] heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
However, we too must be fully disposed to the gift, placing our faith firmly in God’s ability to heal us. Our faith must be efficacious.
When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they said to him. Then he touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” (Matthew 9:28–30)
Some may counter that they had faith, and God did not heal them when they asked. Was their faith then, not efficacious? The Gospel today also gives us some insight into this. Note that the two blind men were not immediately healed. Jesus waited until they had moved to the house towards which He had been journeying and then, He heals them in private. Though we may like to have all things revolve around what, how, and when we want something. It is not about our own ego drama, where everything revolves around “me.” Instead, trusting that God has our greater good always in mind, in a much grander scheme of things, the Theo-drama (God’s plan) is of the utmost importance. Our life must be centered on God’s will, His understanding of our greatest needs, and of course, His perfect timing.
How do we grow in efficacious faith in this advent season? Step one is to really trust that God will do what He promises. We must fully rely on God and that is sometimes hard! I know I like to ask for God’s help, and when things are not moving fast enough, I start my own plan to make things happen. Typically, I discover that had I been just a bit more patient, things would have worked out for the best had my will not gotten in the way of God’s will. Even then, I am constantly amazed to find, in hindsight, that God in His own perfect way had answered my prayers in the best possible way and in the best possible time. There is an oft quoted old Yiddish proverb that says, “We plan, God laughs.”
During this Advent season, step back and with efficacious faith, rest in the knowledge that our Lord will be there for us with the absolute perfect solution and with perfect timing. Then we can, like the two blind men who just can’t keep the miracle of their answered faith to themselves, go out and spread the word of our Lord’s love and mercy for every one of us, “through all the land.” (Matthew 9:31)
Let us pray as St Faustina taught us; “Jesus, I trust in You!”
Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd Ed. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997. Print.
Merriam-Webster. “Efficacious Definition & Meaning.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/efficacious.
New American Bible. Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.