Psalm 31 (Morning)
Psalm 35 (Evening)
About twenty years ago, I had a medical student who just couldn’t let a case drop, despite all the evidence being in front of him. The diagnosis wasn’t unusual (it was a pretty straightforward case of colon cancer) but the way it had spread WAS unusual. It had spread to one of the lymph nodes near his aorta, but there was no evidence of spread to any of the lymph nodes surrounding the colon. Normally, for a metastasis to get that far away, one would see other evidence of spread to the nodes right by the tumor.
The medical student spent the better part of the day trying to argue with all of us why this just couldn’t be so. He dragged out anatomy books and quoted paragraph after paragraph about the lymphatic drainage pattern of the colon, stabbing the words with his finger for emphasis. He dug through the trash looking for the container, insisting that it was mislabeled. He called the surgeon and suggested perhaps he’d biopsied another node (and got yelled at so severely, you could see the flames shooting out the phone!) Yet the indisputable fact of the matter was it was right there on the pathology slides, and that tumor hadn’t read a single word of those books. Sometimes, tumors just do as they please.
The Pharisees in our Gospel reading today sound a bit like our medical student, don’t they?
The indisputable fact of the matter was that here was a man, blind from birth, who suddenly can see. Yet the Pharisees couldn’t get past the fact Jesus healed that man on the Sabbath, and the book says, “Don’t be doing that.” Their approach was to try to negate the miracle by being able to explain it. Maybe his parents are lying about that “blind since birth” thing. Maybe the man was lying about it. No matter how hard they insisted, the man’s story didn’t budge. They never really accepted his story, but instead ran the poor guy out. It was preferable to the Pharisees to simply make this dilemma go away by making the evidence go away. They wouldn’t have to acknowledge that Jesus healed a blind man if they shooed away the evidence.
Our story is a great reminder that, once in a while, miracles happen that simply don’t fit in a nice neat category or can be explained with our rational minds. In fact, our rational minds can actually thwart our ability to merely enjoy the miracle. We might know what the book says, but that’s no guarantee the miracle bothered to read the book. We can waste a lot of energy trying to explain things away to the point we totally lose focus on the miracle, and compulsively keep insisting on all the ways this miracle can’t be true. When we’re uncomfortable sitting in that cloud of unknowing, perhaps the antidote is to simply enjoy the miracle.
When is a time you overspent your emotional capital on rationalizing or disproving an amazing event, to the point that you forgot to enjoy what happened? When is a time you saw something happen that isn’t covered in the book?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, is a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church and a postulant to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. She occasionally finds time to write about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid.
“Nicolas Colombel – Christ Healing the Blind” by Nicolas Colombel – Saint Louis Art Museum official site. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons