“Like the miracles Christ performed two thousand years ago, God continues to insert himself into the dirty details of life and invites us, simply, to trust.” 

From the vault: a homily with some thoughts on yesterday’s Gospel, about a God who spits — and who loves us, no matter what. 

This surprising act raises at least one provocative question: why?

Here was someone who transformed water into wine at Cana with just a thought; here was a man who calmed a storm with just his voice.  Yet here, he did something so explicit, and so physical.


It begins, I think, with his humanity — and ours. 

In this gospel, we see vividly how much God made himself a part of us.   And how much He wants to share of Himself with us.

He is Incarnate – flesh and blood and bone and sweat and spit.  This is how God chose to save mankind, and how he made himself known.  In all that is messy and painful and gross – in all our suffering and struggle and sin – He continues to reach out to us, and reach into us.

This is how he changes us, uplifts us, heals us.

 He is a part of us. And he is with us. Through everything, in everything.

Some of you may know the popular Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman.  He and his family live near Nashville.  He’s sold millions of records, won Grammy Awards, and continues to sell out concerts around the world.   He and his wife have a large family, including a teenage son, named Will Franklin and three young girls from China whom they adopted.  The youngest was a five year old named Maria.

Last year, 17-year-old Will Franklin was driving the family SUV when he rounded a corner into the driveway.  Maria saw her brother coming home and ran out to meet him.  She ran into a blind spot – and Will accidentally struck her.  He jumped out of the car and saw his sister’s broken body on the driveway.  His parents ran out, called 911.  Moments later, the ambulance arrived but it was too late.  Maria was gone.

Young Will was devastated.    And as he got into the car to go to the hospital with his parents, his father, Steven Curtis Chapman, through his own tears looked into his son’s tear-stained, frightened face, took him in his arms and said, firmly but gently: “Will Franklin, remember this.  No matter what, your father loves you.”

I think those are the most beautiful words a parent can say to a child.

And that is what God says to us.

In all our hardship and pain, all our mistakes and sins, He is there.

No matter what, he loves us.

He loves us enough to become one of us. 

He loves us enough to not stand back – but to step in, and be a part of our daily struggles.

He used a human body, the flesh and blood of a man named Jesus, to save the world – and to heal it.   And Christ in today’s Gospel used the elements of his very humanness also to heal.

The miracle in today’s gospel isn’t the only time we encounter Jesus using his own body – his spit – like this, to restore someone’s senses.  You’ll recall the incident involving the blind man who was cured after Jesus made a mixture using mud and    spit and smeared it over the man’s eyes.

But if you think about these events, you’ll realize that they also involve something else (besides an unusual use of body fluids.)

It’s about trust. 

The people who sought healing allowed Christ to do something, frankly, unorthodox and unexpected.  If someone wanted to try and heal us using his spit and some mud, you and I might say, “Wait a minute.  You’re going to do what?”  Yet, the people in the gospel didn’t flinch.  They left themselves open to God’s touch – as discomforting as it may have seemed at that moment.

They let themselves be vulnerable. They trusted.

And the result was miraculous.  The people he touched regained what they had lost.  They literally came to their senses – hearing, seeing, speaking.

What ended with the powerful clarity of a miracle began, quite simply, with an openness to God.  With faith.  With certain hope and surrender.

They let God do what he needed to do. 

If we realize that – if we trust him enough to let him enter into our lives, and do the work he needs to do — who knows what wonders He might work?

Like the miracles Christ performed two thousand years ago, God continues to insert himself into the dirty details of life and invites us, simply, to trust.   Trust that what he knows what he is doing.  Trust that he knows what we need better than we do.

If we do that, we may see and hear and speak as never before.

We too may come to our senses.

And it will happen, ultimately, for one beautiful reason — as Steven Curtis Chapman told his son, in the middle of that boy’s heartbreak. It is what we need to remember in the middle of our own struggles.  When it seems like we’ve done something unforgivable.  When it seems like what is broken can’t be repaired.  When we feel incapable of hearing any good news…or saying any good word.   When we feel we may as well be deaf, or mute, or blind.

When it seems God can’t possibly care about us anymore….we’re wrong.

He can.  He does.

No matter what, our Father loves us.

— From Homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2009

Photo: by Lawrence, OP / Stained glass window at National Cathedral, Washington, DC. / Creative Commons license