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Pastor's Letter 20210905 - 5 September 2021 - Healing Activity of Our Blessed Lord


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September 5th, 2021 

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Jesus Heals the Deaf Man

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:   “The Healing Activity of Our Blessed Lord”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

To those who could not see and to those who could not hear, the message of salvation was promised (Isaiah.)  

Through the mouths of those who could not speak, the Good News was proclaimed (Mark.)  

Those who not possess the treasure of that News must share it indiscriminately and generously with all (James.)  

(P.D. Sanchez, “The Word We Celebrate”)  

The liberation of the human spirit was depicted by the prophet in a series of dramatic physical healings, to which he alludes in today’s First Reading (Isaiah 35:4-7.)  Blind, deaf and lame would be miraculously rehabilitated.  Even the tongues of the dumb would be freed to render praise and thanks, once again, to their Redeemer/Judge—the God Jehovah.  Later generations would remember this text and others similar to it, and associate these healings and this restoration with the long-awaited era of Messianic salvation.  

Our Second Reading (James 2:1-5,) is concerned with the distinction between persons based on their economic success in life, which the author denounces as contradictory and irreconcilable with faith in Jesus Christ.  

Christians are called to a magnanimity of heart that would not base their concern for another on outward appearances. Treating the “well-heeled” with respect, while denigrating those whose disadvantages were apparent, unfortunately, is not only a first-century, culture-bound tradition.  It is an all-too-familiar scenario in any society where designer labels on the outside seem to speak louder and more impressively than the person who wears them. To act in this manner, in any century, is to judge wrongly, and corruptly, by false standards.  

The healing of the deaf man portrayed in today’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37,) has the added symbolic intention of showing that the Gentiles, once deaf and dumb towards God, because of Jesus, have been made capable of hearing God and paying Him homage.  This happened in Gentile territory, in which the faith-response contrasts sharply with that of many of His own people.  In Mark’s mind, Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah.   Jesus’ healing of the deaf-mute can be understood as a revelation of His Messiahship and of the beginning of the age of salvation.

Jesus’ use of traditional gestures—touching the man’s ears and tongue with spittle—are outward, visible signs of His Messianic power.  Important for us, however, they are indicative of the rituals contained in the administration of the Sacraments, which have become intrinsic to our Catholic worship.  It is what happens to every Christian at Baptism—wherein Christ touches our ears so that we can hear His word; and touches our tongues so that we can profess our faith.  These gestures communicate the intangible, those otherwise invisible and ineffable activities of God, in the actions of Jesus Christ (in the person of the priest.)  

The Gifts of Hearing and Speech

We know that the gifts of hearing and speech, like all gifts, can be taken for granted or even misused.  They are connected.  We see this especially in the case of the elderly.  When their hearing deteriorates, they often retreat into embarrassed silences and misunderstandings.  People with diminished hearing many times are looked upon as “doddering,” or “eccentric.”  Modern hearing aids have lessened their pain, but not removed it entirety. (From personal experience, I’ve found them less than ideal from a convenience and “fidelity” standpoint.)  Even though most of us have full use of these gifts doesn’t mean we use them well.  Many of us are “poor listeners” (ask most wives about their husbands!)  And many people have some difficulty “expressing themselves.”

The gift of speech is our chief means of communicating with others.  It’s a sad fact that people with speech impediments are often subjects of ridicule and amusement, especially among children.  

A fate worse than being born deaf is to have ears and yet fail to hear.  Worse again is to have ears and refuse to hear, or to have a tongue and refuse to speak.  So, we need the Lord’s healing touch if we are to use these two precious gifts well.  

Our senses are precious and vital.  We have to experience God with our senses too—with our eyes, our ears, our tongues and especially our hearts.  The miracle is not so much about the physical healing of a man who was deaf and dumb.  A person could have perfect hearing and still not hear God’s Word.  Or, a person with perfect speech might be unable to make an act of faith.

We need to hear God’s Word, and profess it with our lips—and finally, to put it into practice in our lives.  When heard and acted upon, God’s Word is like a seed falling on good soil.  It makes lives fruitful.  

Retelling the Story

From the point of view of someone who has been unable to hear or speak, the world is altogether different than the rest of us experience. There are no shouts of children at play, no singing of birds, the sounds of wind in the trees, no words of comfort or encouragement or advice…nothing except silence.  Outside of the hearing/speaking population, there is often a reticence to communicate with them.  It’s an effort seen by some as “tedious.”  

Without the ability to speak, muted people are unable to explain themselves; unable to express their feelings; unable to contribute anything to the community.  Consequently, they may sink into depression, feeling useless.  

Like everyone else, disadvantaged people crave compassion.  This is found by some of them in association with others, similarly without ability to hear or speak.  Those who are fortunate to have communities in which they can learn American Sign Language, and special schools to help them learn are indeed fortunate.   Accommodations that have been made for the hearing-impaired to simultaneously translate aural presentations to “Sign” can be seen in many public venues.  

The reaction of the Gentile man in today’s Gospel to Jesus’ ministrations could only be assumed to be monumental!  Isolated from the world-at-large for his entire life, he would finally be able to inter-relate to others with his newly-found gifts.  Usually avoided by the people, the individual attention from Jesus would have made the surrounding people question this notice.  

Such an experience might well serve to enlighten one to certain impediments that prevent people from making full use of their gift of speech—shyness, insensitivity, apathy…. And they have impediments that similarly prevent them from hearing well—prejudice, inattention, refusal to listen….

Each of us encounters people who have ears but cannot hear, and tongues but cannot speak.  One cannot teach someone who refuses to be taught, due to debilitating preconceptions and bigotry!  

Hearing and speech are wonderful gifts, but without a “heart” that is able to feel compassion, we will never be able to use them well.  It is only with the heart that we can listen rightly, and it only with the heart that we can speak rightly.   If the words and actions of Jesus can touch your ears and your tongue, they will also touch your heart.  That is the true miracle!  

May God Richly Bless You!

“Speak Lord, Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9) 

To view a live stream of today's Holy Mass, click here:  https://youtu.be/ufrB8d8Dja4

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.docx

Edited by Father Michael
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