The Consequences of Seeing

Arts & Faith: Lent - El Greco - "Christ Healing the Blind"

This story is inspired by John 9:1–41, the healing of the man born blind, and Mark 10:46–52, the healing of Bartimaeus.

Bartimaeus and I talked about it. His healing was immediate. Not mine. I must have looked like a fool stumbling down the road, mud on my eyes.

“What was the first thing you saw?” I asked Bartimaeus.

“The face of Jesus. You?”

“My own reflection in the pool.”

As we sat looking—just looking—at the splendid, ordinary people passing by, we asked each other: What was the most amazing, surprising thing you saw today? What would be different for you today if you couldn’t see?

I’m not sure why Jesus didn’t heal me instantly like he did Bartimaeus. I had to journey to wash.

Bartimaeus said, “I really don’t think I could’ve let him put muddy spit in my eyes. You are brave.”

“Not at all,” I said. “I heard that spit heals, so I dared to hope. Besides, you’re the courageous one—shouting to stop Jesus. I didn’t even ask. Jesus wanted to illustrate a point to his followers about making God’s works visible. I was lucky.”

Bartimaeus shook his head and looked up at the sky. “But you had no hesitation. You acted. You went to the pool.”

He had me there. I was willing to do something a little outrageous. I remember feeling hesitant as I walked. An inner voice taunted, “If you accept the gift of healing, no more begging for you.” What work could I do? I was skilled at nothing except begging. How would I make a living? If I was no longer blind, my parents would have expectations for me. Halfway to the pool my steps slowed. Should I continue?

“Wait!” a stranger called. There was a pothole ahead. From there on, this fellow guided me and let me voice my doubts. I asked, “Who am I to expect a miracle? Why me? What next?”

The stranger listened—the first person who really ever did. The stranger even held my elbow and was there when I washed. After my own, his was the first face I saw. I had only felt faces before; I was surprised by the colors and this man’s expression. He gaped. What did that expression mean?

“I almost gave up on God. Now I meet you,” the stranger said. It was his turn to pour out his heart.

Bartimaeus said, “I wonder if that man needed to witness your healing. And that’s the reason you were sent to the pool.”

“Hmmm,” I replied. “The stranger was the one telling everyone about the healing.”

I thought some more. “I never expected the consequences of seeing. I didn’t expect to catch the Pharisees’ eyes, to be ridiculed and mistreated by them.”

“Well, my friend, that’s why you and I are on this journey. I didn’t expect the turns my life has taken either.”

“I wasn’t just cured. I was interrogated, mocked, and mistrusted.”

Bartimaeus nodded. “The leaders failed you.”

“I don’t fault my parents for staying neutral. This way they didn’t get kicked out of the synagogue too.”

Bartimaeus looked pensive. “If you had to do it again, would you choose to remain blind?”

“And wallow in self-pity?” I said. “It may have been easier. But Jesus saw something in me and knew I could face those Pharisees.”

“Would you go to the pool again?” Bartimaeus asked.

“In a heartbeat. And I pray for the grace to be sent again.”


Reflect further on John 9:1–41 with an Arts & Faith: Lent reflection video inspired by the image, El Greco’s Christ Healing the Blind.

About Loretta Pehanich 36 Articles
Loretta Pehanich is a spiritual director and author of Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. She is involved with the Center for Ignatian Spirituality in Sacramento and its program in giving the Spiritual Exercises. She has more than 20 years of experience in ministry, including retreat work and small group leadership. Loretta currently works as a fundraiser in Sacramento. She and her husband have four children and nine grandchildren.

17 Comments on The Consequences of Seeing

  1. Thank you for the conversational story that highlights in an insightful way for me the gentle relationship between two blind persons. It recalls for me the notion, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Put another way, “With predictive insights about the future, one must open my heart to embrace lovingly an unknown future and consider compassion and mercy as critical elements.

    Another item that stood out for me was prayers for healing may just mean acceptance. It may mean seeing a difficult situation from another perspective, expanding on the physical realm of sight, the notion of sublime vision. Vision certainly leaves many more options for me as I reflect on a handful of ‘mud in the eye’ events. And it solves the problem of blindness.

    The next problem-weakness-gets solved by a journey. Them going to the pool to get washed was action, that yielded courage.

    And finally is the problem of stubbornness. It can through healing give rise to the notion of acceptance.

    Questions I often ponder: How do I make a living? A meaningful life? Will I have enough for retirement? What is the vision of the future that is shared by my loved ones, my co-workers, and my prospective clients? How am I responding to their vision? Are these impressions inspiring to me? Will I be properly courageous to make them manifest? Am I too judgmental about it? Perhaps my response needs to quicken, to soften, to strengthen. To let old ways yield to new ways. To enable new beginnings to emerge. To let green shoots grow.

    Some things I’m working on this week include:
    1. New neighbors moving in next door.
    2. Son readying for a new career.
    3. Family going to an extended family reunion this summer.
    4. Me donating time to an organization that’s dedicated to serving those marginalized in the community.

    While these are more mundane that Jennifer’s challenge of stage four, Bartimaeus and Jesus are my guides.

  2. ‘And I pray for the grace to be sent again’… Beautiful Loretta, what a lovely piece, I was there with Bartimaeus, the blind beggar and you. Thank you

  3. Such profound insights on these two blind persons
    whom Jesús cured! You must be so helpful in your
    retreat work.
    Praying for Jennifer and also your relative with
    cancer. How trusting in God they are.

  4. What a gift you have in writing Loretta, thank you for the beautiful way you tell the story Jesus’ healing of Bartimaeus.
    I will pray for you Jennifer & those with stage 4 cancer. You are brave & it sounds like Loretta’s writing really helped you. God Bless you & all who suffer with cancer.

  5. If we are open to it,we are given this great gift of seeing (Jesus and the love that He has for us) and I now realize that as disciples of Christ we are given the charge to pass on our gift to others. Maybe this is only one way of evangelizing others, by our stories of of how we have come to see the face of Jesus. I loved the way that you passed it on to us.

  6. Thank you for giving me much to ponder: ““I wasn’t just cured. I was interrogated, mocked, and mistrusted.” I am reminded of St. Bernadette and also the Fatima children and all that they went through as a result of the glorious visions they experienced! May God give me the wisdom and strength to face these remaining days of Lent with renewed vision and resolve to be a joyful witness for Jesus every challenging step of the way!

  7. This was so creative. I love the thought of the two people being healed of blindness discussing their experience. It will inspire me to think about the people who Jesus healed in different ways.

  8. What a powerful story – thank you. A year and half ago my husband of 60 years died and I’ve often wondered how I can go on without him. I realize I’m on a new journey and that God is with me and leading me.

    • I’ve never heard of anyone asking to be a widow. It is a unique journey, with unknown adventures ahead. God is with you! Just watch out for the mud that may get into your eye. ;-)

  9. Beautiful Analogy, especially these words “Bartimaeus said, “I wonder if that man needed to witness your healing. And that’s the reason you were sent to the pool.”
    We need to rest and trust in His plans!

  10. Wow! I loved this! I have stage four cancer, and so this really resonates with me! I’ve asked for healing, but am I strong enough and brave enough to accept what might come after? Really made me pause..and will give me much to think about. Thank you so much!!!

    • Dear Jennifer,
      Thank you for your reply. A close relative of mine also is in stage 4 cancer. I never expected when I wrote this post that it would touch someone experiencing something so close to me. Prayers and blessings!

      • You’re welcome. Will say prayers for your relative. I used to think the scariest thing a doctor could do to a patient was to use the word cancer. Now I know it is two words “stage four”. We just live in a state of constant upheaval. I am praying for healing, but also being very matter of fact about the reality of it. God bless you!

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