“ … Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.”
“All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”
Family and friends congregated recently at St.Catherine’s Episcopal Church in Marietta, GA, for the burial of my friend Bella. As we commended her soul to God, a sheep of God’s own fold, a lamb of God’s own flock, a sinner of God’s own redeeming, the priest said these words: “All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”
Undertones pulse ominously in the gospeler Mark’s story about Jesus’ healing of the blind man Bartimaeus. We remember our mortality; we remember that sometimes our bodies don’t work as they were made to work. Our vulnerability to sickness and death loom between the lines, between the actions, between the words of the story. And questions cry out as this exchange between Jesus and Bartimaeus takes place: How was the man healed? Will God heal me in the same, miraculous way? If not, why not? But what Jesus said to the man holds for us, too: “Go; your faith has made you well.”
“Your faith has made you well.”
When we went outside to St. Catherine’s memorial garden to commit Bella’s ashes, we stood around the hole that waited for her in the ground. And as the priest poured Bella’s gray ashes into the hole, much of what had been Bella stayed in the hole, but a fine mist of gray swirled up into the air, above the hole, refused to be buried and kept under the ground. She – her spirit – could not and would not be contained. And so, of course, it was – and is – with Jesus. The tomb did not hold him. And it is our faith in the One who proclaimed “No” to death that makes us well. It makes us whole, complete, all that we can be. And more.
God did not heal Bella physically. But, to me, Bella was whole. I used to call her my Buddha: full of wisdom, serenity, perspective. I leaned on her counsel, treasured what she had to say. Bella’s faith filled every part of her being, and I can imagine – I know that God is the judge, not I – but I can imagine God saying to her when she died: “Come; your faith has made you well.” And God says that to you and to me and to all of us. Our faith makes us well, makes us whole, makes us complete. Makes us all that we can be. And more.
As we express our faith at home in our own room, in our own faith communities and elsewhere, we can trust that God will say to us: “Go; your faith has made you well.” And at the end when our bodies don’t work anymore, we can trust that God will say to us: “Come; your faith has made you well.” And as we embrace that truth, we can join hands with Bella and with each other and sing: “All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”
Together we make our song: “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”