On the way to work I heard a woman call in to a Christian radio station to respond to the question, “What have your children taught you?” She shared the story of her two daughters, one 4 months and one 19 months old. When the younger one was crying, the older one tried to comfort her by calling out her name and making cooing noises. When that didn’t work she went to the crib, took the pacifier out of her own mouth and plopped it into the mouth of her baby sister.
The mom said she learned that sometimes words are not enough when it comes to comforting someone. Sometimes it required a personal touch, real presence.
The radio announcer said the story reminded him of mother’s spit, a reference most moms would recognize immediately. Whether I was a toddler, teen or know-it-all mother of my own children, my mom wouldn’t hesitate to use one of the chief weapons in a mom’s arsenal of kid care – spit. And though I grimaced and squirmed and pulled away each time, I relied on the same tool myself as a mom of often dirty, scratched, bleeding or bitten sons.
Mom’s spit is a healing, cleansing balm, intended as a course of care, contrary to the insulting practice of spitting on someone.
Spit works. Jesus knew it, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he learned it from his mother, Mary. So when two blind men, and a third with a speech impediment, need healing, Jesus uses divine spit to release the men from their disabilities – a personal, intimate touch to be sure.
Theologians are likely to interpret the story with more exacting attention to doctrine and prevailing customs of Jesus’ time, but for me, it’s enough to remember the miracle of spit – and the power of love made known through a mother’s caring, albeit sloppy, touch.