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He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak

By 9 September, 2018January 3rd, 2023No Comments
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By F. Luis Casasús, General Superior of Idente missionaries
Commentary on the XXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 9 2018,  Madrid.
(Book of Isaiah 35, 4-79; Letter of James 2,1-5.; Saint Mark 7,31-37)

Imagine that you go back home from your work and on the way you have witnessed a horrible car accident. Or perhaps what you have seen is… a thousand dollars note on the sidewalk. Could you avoid telling it? No. It would be unnatural and almost unhealthy.

Most probably, your reaction will be that of the first Apostles after their multiple personal experiences with Jesus: We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20).

This was also the attitude of the witnesses of today’s miracle: But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.

But these two examples refer to more or less extraordinary events. The real problem for many of us, highlighted by today’s readings, is our lack of sensitivity and awareness of God’s work (not only his presence!) and of what is really happening to our neighbor. Primarily. this is why we do not give testimony to the wonderful works of Jesus. Yes, we miss the many ways God is bringing us consolation (First Reading), we are dazzled and blinded by the gold rings or the shabby clothes of our fellowmen (Second Reading) and this is why we seldom draw a hungry and thirsty person to Christ (Gospel text). In the Book of Job we read: For God does speak, now one way, now another, though no one perceives it. (33:14).

This is the diagnosis: We make our limitations an object of contemplation. Our inner ears are often desensitized by the distractions of the world, the busyness of life and the hardness of the heart. It is very healthy to acknowledge that our heart is hurt, broken and hardened.

And this explains the spiritual relevance of the healing of a deaf and stammering man by Jesus. He did not say “You are healed” or “Now you can hear”, instead He shouted: “Be opened!” Here, this openness is synonymous with spiritual sensitivity, which has several dimensions:

– Our spiritual deafness, our refusal or inability to hear the warnings of God against the enticement of our sins and passions.

– Ability to detect service-minded people who might have a vocation. Or perhaps to perceive a difficult time in the perseverance of a young religious.

– The Gospel text describes some friends presenting the man to Christ. In the event of ANY difficulty in the life of a person, besides the material and/or emotional help, we have to find the way to bring him to Jesus. This is always possible when we have the same mind and heart of Christ. We receive the necessary light and strength in each specific situation.

The truth is that God speaks in a still, small voice. When the prophet Samuel was a child, he heard the voice of God, but he did not recognize it. He thought that the voice he was hearing was the voice of Eli, his mentor. Eli perceived that it was the Lord who had been calling him, and he gave Samuel instructions on what he was to do when God called him again. We all need to learn to discern His voice.

Oftentimes the Holy Spirit will speak in an unexpected and unpredictable way: There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to anyone of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman (Lk 4: 25-27). The lives of Founders are other astounding examples of spiritual sensitivity.

The late Cardinal Sin, (Manila) told the story of a blind vendor selling some candies and other items on a sidewalk during the Christmas season. As people were rushing, her little bamboo tray was bumped. She tried to grope for her wares. Nobody seemed to mind her as they hurried past her. Then a man stopped and then stooped to pick up her things and returned them to her in her tray. She asked the kind gentleman: Are you Christ?

This good gentleman, for this blind woman, was Christ. There are many opportunities given to us by which we are faced with people who need help, but how often do we respond? Perhaps that scene was not a national tragedy, rather an occasion to be sensitive, to listen to the voice of God in the suffering of a person “of no importance” for the rest of people.

The people of Nazareth were not really ready to hear from God, even though they were in the middle of a worship service. That tells us that spiritual sensitivity is more a matter of the heart than of formation or religious practices. How much competition would the Holy Spirit have today for my attention?

Can we hear what people are trying to say to us? Can we hear what the situation we are in, is saying to us? Can we hear what God is saying to us in purification, in bitter and sweet moments? Can I see the presence of God in the life of a brother or a sister with a difficult personality?

In Jesus’ response to the man who was brought for healing, we see the compassionate love and care of Jesus for him and for all who need his healing touch. The Gospel tells us that Jesus took him aside from the crowd. He deals with him on a personal level on a one-to-one basis. Jesus spends time alone with him, and touches him putting his fingers into his ears and spittle on his tongue.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that Spiritual Sensitivity can be developed: But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (5:14).

Spiritual Sensitivity can grow after some especially traumatic or joyful experiences but, in all circumstances, this happens when a Christ-follower moves beyond focusing solely on himself and begins focusing on being available to be used by God to impact others. This a true missionary (or apostolic) spirituality. And also one of the marks of spiritual maturity.

This is what happened a few weeks ago to a German feminist, atheist, young journalist named Valerie, who started a journalist investigation together with a Catholic Chaplain on the faith (and lack of faith) of German young people today…and she ended finding her faith. She describes in a book her spiritual path as a true “Ephphatha”.

After their long conversations about difficult issues, such as celibacy, women’s ordination and homosexuality, abuse scandal, Valerie felt touched in different moments, especially because the priest was convincingly living his faith despite his personal limitations. She just dared to give Christ an opportunity to open her eyes and ears. She just begun to share with Christ her questions, doubts, disappointments, as well as her gratitude and love. Valerie could not make that decision until the end of the book. But she did. And God answered promptly.

Because Jesus was aware of the Spirit, He was able to decipher even the hidden thoughts and intentions of those around Him. Jesus was about His Father’s business, which was more important than anything else in His life.

A Native American was in downtown New York walking with a friend who lived in the town. As they were walking along all of a sudden the Native American stopped and said: I hear a cricket. His friend replied: Oh, you’re crazy. There are people everywhere headed to lunch, cars are honking, taxis squealing, there’s all the noise from the city. Surely you can’t hear a cricket above all that. The Native American said: Well, I’m sure I hear a cricket. So he listened attentively and then walked 10 feet to the corner where there was a shrub in a large cement planter. He dug beneath the leaves and found a cricket. His friend was astounded. But the Native said: My ears are no different from yours. It simply depends on what you are listening to. Here, let me show you. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change, a few coins. And he dropped it on the concrete. Every head within half a block turned. You see what I mean? as he began picking up all the coins. It all depends on what you are listening for.

We all have laughed with the story of a man begging alms in the street…to buy gas for his luxury Rolls Royce. Of course, his claim is not very convincing in this is what makes the scene humorous. But we show forth this attitude when we pray for our conversion or for the apostolic fruits and, in parallel, we are craving for recognition and immediate success. This is far from the stance of Jesus:  he looked up to heaven and groaned,…and besides, He ordered them not to tell anyone. He put everything in His Father’s hands. He was not interested in anything else.

It is understandable that individuals who are deaf-mute are not comfortable in the presence of many people. Christ recognized this special need that He took time to be alone with this deaf-mute person. He took him aside, away from the eyes of the crowd. And He performed some signs perceptible with the senses. We also must be sensitive to the needs of our neighbor, using of all possible means to reach out to others in ways that they can understand and enjoy Christ’s message.

 

Tips to make the most of the Holy Mass

  1. Eucharistic Prayer. Let us give thanks to the Lord our Lord. The third piece of the dialog in the Preface is an invitation to give thanks, fully appropriate for the celebration of the Eucharist (which means a “thanksgiving”). The response to this call to give thanks is “It is right and just.” Justice is the virtue of rendering unto someone what is due to that person, and the virtue of religion is rendering unto God what it due to God. This is the proper meaning of worship.

It is in the Preface Dialog that we state our desire to offer our very selves up to God along with the Eucharistic sacrifice about to be offered at the hands of the priest. We offer him our every emotion and thought. We unit all that we are to the sacrifice of Christ. We owe our existence itself to God, the one who created us. Accordingly, there is only one gift we can offer to God that is a fitting response: ourselves.