When I was young I was out fishing along the Snake River in Wyoming. The river was in flood, so I wasn’t catching much of anything, but the day was a perfect embrace of lush smells, beautiful sights, and warmth. Suddenly I felt a little pressure on my boot. I looked down, and there, right there on my foot, were three baby otters, wrestling like puppies. They had little, sharp teeth and sweet brown otter eyes, and they were playing with total abandon. I pretended nonchalance while I watched them, awed, and tickled by their cuteness and their antics.
After awhile the young one’s mother came along, and she was so frightened she was hissing. She could barely force herself to come and get her offspring off my foot, but she did, hurrying them away to their den. It was sad to see the youngsters go, but I came away feeling blessed beyond measure. As you can tell, this will always be one of my sharpest, most precious memories.
If I had been in true fisherman mode, this would never have happened. I would have been focused on finding the best hole and finessing the catch. I would have been all up in my head, counting on my own abilities to make good things happen. I would never have been still enough to receive the gift of the otters.
We are like the blind man in today’s Gospel – blind so that God’s works might be revealed in us. This is our natural state, and it invites miracles. This is who God made us to be, supplicants, and therefore receivers of the blessing of spiritual sight.
But we get to thinking we can do everything ourselves. We put out our begging bowls intent on collecting money and bread only. We miss out on the more profound gift. We can’t be bothered to go to the pool of Siloam, Instead we wipe the mud out of our eyes and go on, blindly begging. Because if we leave our post we could miss the next customer. We’ll go after work, we tell ourselves, or on the weekend. And then we never do.
Waiting in the silence of prayer, we are open to what God wants to bless us with. Anything can fall into our begging bowls. Christ can appear, and heal us. We are available to the otters when they come to play.