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Ella Coulter, a sophomore at Villa Duchesne High School, presented a Gospel reflection on Jesus healing of Bartimaeus, the blind man in Jericho. Ella related Bartimaeus to the blindness Jesus healed in her and her relationship with her older brother, Jack, who has cerebal palsy. She talked to Jack after giving her reflection in the school’s chapel.
Ella Coulter, a sophomore at Villa Duchesne High School, presented a Gospel reflection on Jesus healing of Bartimaeus, the blind man in Jericho. Ella related Bartimaeus to the blindness Jesus healed in her and her relationship with her older brother, Jack, who has cerebal palsy. She talked to Jack after giving her reflection in the school’s chapel.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Seeing through God’s eyes brings comfort, clarity

Reflection on Gospel helps Villa Duchesne student see her brother’s cerebral palsy as Jesus does

Seeing through the eyes of God and spreading His love into the world is not an easy task, but the Gospel serves as a good example for our lives, said a Villa Duchesne student. Sophomore Ella Coulter related the Gospel example of a blind beggar to how she can open her eyes and truly see how her brother deals with a disability.

Ella, a student in a Paschal Mystery course at Villa Duchesne, was assigned to research and write a reflection on Mark 10:46-52, which tells the story of Jesus restoring sight to Bartimaeus. She gave the reflection March 6 in the chapel before the student body as part of a Lenten program at the school.

Ella told of how Bartimaeus, filled with joy and energy, ignored the discouragement of others. “This is a perfect example of how we must face God and allow ourselves to be changed by Him. It is necessary that we free ourselves from every weight and put all of our trust in Jesus, an idea which we all know as ‘dying to your false self,’” Ella said in her talk.

It’s hard to imitate Bartimaeus and his faith, Ella said, and even Jesus’ disciples found it difficult.

Ella relates to their struggles because she has a brother, Jack, who has cerebral palsy. He is unable to speak, walk or take part in most other activities. As a child, Ella said, she never saw how difficult things were for him and the rest of her family. Since then, she said, she clearly recognizes how incredibly tough it can be on parents of a child with severe special needs. She witnesses and worries through each hospital visit, surgery or daily struggle Jack has.

Sometimes, things are just too hard to see or grasp, Ella said, when it involves the world’s brokenness or suffering. “Seeing is dangerous. It can call into question everything we’ve ever believed, dismantling our faith, our theology or our worldview. I have found that fully confronting and seeing the sad struggles of Jack’s condition only leads to heartbreak. I question my own faith because of it.”

A vital part of faith is to see things as they are, Ella said. “The answer is to follow the example of Bartimaeus. He simply started with Jesus. First, he acknowledges Him. Then he trusts in Him.”

When she goes first to Jesus in order to truly see, she said, “I am able to witness and experience the great beauty in Jack. There is something so profound about the simplicity with which he lives. I can also see the exquisite selflessness my parent have when handling Jack. Going to Jesus first is the key to seeing the way we are meant to see.”

The Lenten prayer service was part of an effort to help students see that Lent is not only a time to give something up such as candy or soda, “but a time where we are called to grow deeper in our relationship with God and seek the true meaning of Christ in our world today,” said Molly McLaughlin, who introduced Ella.

“This means looking for God in those around us and being able to recognize that Jesus’ presence is always with us,” Molly said. “Often times it is easy to lose sight of God as our lives are extremely busy, with work, school, sports or whatever it may be. Sometimes we may even get caught up in stress and anxiety and feel as if we are lost or in this case, ‘blind’ as to where God is in our lives.”

Ella said later that the class assignment helped her look deeper into her faith and apply it to life. She knew that she had to look into whether God is beside her during struggles and why her brother suffers with his health issue. Looking through the lens of God brings clarity, she said.

At the prayer service, Ella and another student made the sign of the cross over other students’ and visitors’ eyes, symbolizing the need to see God everywhere.

Ella’s family attended the presentation. Her dad, Bill Coulter, called his daughter’s presentation inspirational and insightful. The struggles he and his wife, Shannon, endure involve hard work “but it’s part of our lives,” he said, noting that “we all step away from God and question bad things that happen. To hold onto your faith and articulate it as Ella did shows depth and maturity.”

He and Shannon chose Villa Duchesne for Ella because they believed it’s a school where she’d grow in her faith and feel comforted, he said. “We’re happy it’s come to fruition.”

Jack, he said, is a blessing, “and it’s an honor to take care of someone going to heaven. If he can drag me through the front door, that’ll be great.”

>> Bartimaeus

Mark 10: 46-52

And they came to Jericho; and as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart, He is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him on the way.

>> Gospel story

The “capstone” of learning about salvation history for Villa Duchesne students is choosing a Gospel story that speaks to their own life experiences.

After research into the Gospel’s historical background, the students write a reflection based on the story.

It helps them see that the story of salvation history is about them, said Jeannie Steenberge, theology department chair at Villa Duchesne. For example, she said, “when Jesus heals the bent-over woman, He teaches them to stand up and see their human dignity.”

The reflections are read in the chapel as part of a Lenten prayer service. Several reflections concerned the topic of seeing through Jesus’ eyes. That led to a Lenten theme of “Behold Your World Through the Eyes of Christ.” The reflections on seeing through Jesus’ eyes are shared through a newsletter also.

Jen MacArthur, campus minister at Villa Duchesne, said the key is that students learn from their peers. By personalizing the Gospel, “it’s no longer the story of old but something that lives in them,” she said.

Seeing through Gods eyes brings comfort clarity

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