23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 6th September 2015

"Wonderful things can happen through us"

Scripture Reading – Mark 7:31-37

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’

REFLECTION

“Wonderful things can happen through us”

by Bro Padraig McDonald SDB

We can all think of people who have enriched our lives in one way or another, friends, family who have helped to bring out the best in us, who have helped us to become all that God is calling us to be. But to reach that point in our lives, we need the support and help of others.

In the Gospel reading, a deaf and dumb man is brought to Jesus by others. This man had people who were looking out for him, and they sought out someone they believed could be of help to him. They led him to a person that that he could not have reached by himself. This kind of scene is repeated many times in the Gospels.

These scenes are repeated in many ways in the lives of people today. There are many people who help the sick within the confines of their own homes or neighbourhood, they can be an important and life supporting presence for others, to help them and enable them to live fuller lives. Wonderful things can happen through us

We are reminded today that we need others to help us become the person God desires us to be. In various ways any one of us can become a gate to a life giving experience for others. We are all called to be channels of Gods ongoing creative work, God works through us, so that the lives of others are enriched.

In the Gospel the ears of the man were opened by Jesus, he began to speak clearly. The healing of his deafness came before the healing of his speech impediment. This is a reminder that our ability to speak is dependent on our ability to Listen. Our capacity to hear and to really listen to people, can mean more than anything we might do or say to them. The act of listening can be a powerful life enriching act. When people are listened to, they can begin to come alive in new ways

We pray this Sunday for the grace to discern the ways in which the Lord may be calling each of us to be channels of his creative power in our world today.

INTRODUCTION TO LECTIO DIVINA

In a foreign land, Jesus fulfilled one of the signs foretold by the Prophet Isaiah. The healing is described in detail, and the details could be repeated in the rites of Christian initiation.  Anyone who wants to be a disciple, feels the need to be touched by Jesus, to be the object of his prayer, to receive his orders and to listen openly to him. Making the deaf hear and the dumb speak is the work of God for those who seek salvation. It does not matter if we are still far away. God comes to those who acknowledge their sins and recognize their need for him.  We cannot expect to receive what we do not need, and God will not fail those who seek him. It is significant that the miracle is the gift of hearing that enables the man to enter into dialogue. It is of little use that God wants to talk to us if we close our ears to him. As believers, we live on our own if we remain deaf to the voice of God. The price we pay for our refusal to obey is that of non-communication.

LECTIO DIVINA

I. Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it

After he had healed the daughter of a foreign women in the land of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus moves on again, crossing the Decapolis (Mk 5,1), into Galilee (Mk 7,31), where he will begin the journey up to Jerusalem, his first and last journey to the holy city (Mk 8,22-10,52). During this unaccustomed journey through pagan lands Jesus does not preach the gospel, but works several miracles: healing a little girl (Mk 7, 24-30) and a deaf mute (Mk 7, 31-37) and feeding a great multitude (Mk 8, 1-10). By putting on record that Jesus did not neglect to do good even to pagans, Mark emphasizes the universality of Jesus’ mission and its messianic character (cf. Is 35, 5-6).

The episode is reported in a lively and precise manner. It is not clear who requested the healing, but it was certainly not the sick man himself. Jesus’ response is recorded in detail. He was asked to bless the man by laying his hands on him, but he did much more. He took him aside, put his fingers in his ears, touched his tongue with saliva and gave him a command in Aramaic (Mk 7, 33). He acted in the same way as wonder-workers of his time. In order to heal a pagan, he imitated the methods of pagan healers. The cure was immediate (Mk 7, 35).  First, he cured the man’s hearing, for that was the root of the problem, and then he loosened his tongue. The fact that he was able to speak without difficulty was proof of the miracle.

The healing was done in private and the silence imposed by Jesus was intended to maintain the privacy of the miracle. However, the man who was healed was unable to keep silent. Jesus’ saving action must be made known, even against his wishes. In Jesus there is the power of God which is characterized by doing all things well (cf Jn 1, 31). His power is so efficacious that the pagans are perplexed and are converted into “evangelizers”, announcers of the one who, though his deeds, makes God’s salvation present.

II. Meditate:  apply what the text says to life

We might think, at first sight, that this text has little to do with us since, thank God, we are not deaf and dumb. What the gospel relates is not just a pious fable but rather a demonstration of what God can do for each one of us, if we come to him as we are.

We should never be surprised by the extraordinary details of the miracles of Jesus, nor by the power revealed in them.  They are, first and foremost, a manifestation of the sympathy and compassion he felt for those who came to him in need. What he once did, he can do again in our day. It is enough that we come to him, aware of our need, as the deaf man did.

The first thing to notice is that his healing cost the deaf man very little.  He was brought by others and he remained silent in the presence of Jesus. His acquaintances brought him to Jesus and asked Jesus to lay his hands on him. The deaf man accepted willingly what the others did on his behalf. Rather than any effort on his part, what was needed for him to be cured was the compassion of the people around him.

If it is true that for Jesus to work miracles all that is required is for others to present the person in need, it is hard to understand why there are so few miracles among us. Could it be that we have no relative or friend in need of healing? Or that we do not know anybody who has moved away from the Lord and is no longer interested in hearing him? Why are we so slow to bring them to Jesus and ask him to open their hearts and their lips?  Why do we show so much respect for others that we leave them in their need? It would be enough to bring them to Jesus for him to heal them. If it had not been for the people who brought him to Jesus, the deaf man would never have been healed.

Jesus simply looked up to heaven and said, “Be opened”. Jesus healed that man not just from deafness but especially from the solitude suffered by those who cannot communicate. By putting his fingers in the man’s ears and touching his tongue with saliva, Jesus showed that he took the man’s illness seriously. By restoring his natural capacity for communication, he brought him back into the community and restored his human dignity. This might seem of little importance. Only if we understand and value the capacity for communication that God has given us, will we appreciate this miracle.  If we are content to appear deaf and dumb before God and neighbour, or if we seek solitude to avoid communication, then we will fail to understand how the Lord saves us from greater evils by restoring our hearing and speech.

We live in a sick world, full of noise but with very little dialogue, a world in which many people speak but few listen. We all have something to say but nobody wants to listen. We have a need to be heard and understood, and we suffer if no one listens to us.

We neglect our neighbour by not listening to him and ignoring his needs, and very often our relationship with God is similar to that with our neighbour. We pay little attention to God and sometimes we hide from him.

We are well able to speak but we are becoming incapable of listening, strangers to our friends and lacking a real relationship with God. The world is becoming less human, and God more unknown, because there are so few people with the ability to listen and the will to communicate. Too many of us are becoming deaf and dumb.

We need to take the command of Jesus, “Be opened,” as if it were addressed to us. He wants to make us people capable of listening and believing, and able to communicate with others. Someone who has been healed by the Lord cannot remain outside the community as if he had nothing to say or to learn. Having nothing to say is equivalent to doubting God who gives us the gift of speech and makes us capable of dialoguing. We are made in his own image and likeness. If we think that others do not merit our attention, then we do not appreciate the gift God has given us of being able to communicate.

When we come to Jesus we receive the word and the will to listen to it. No one who comes to Jesus returns to his neighbour without the capacity to dialogue. The person who is healed by Jesus is able to speak and ready to listen.

It is no mere coincidence that people nowadays are less able to listen. A community that is incapable of dialogue is neither human nor Christian. As disciples of Jesus we have a task to heal our community, beginning at the root of the problem, our inability to communicate.

We should be like those people who brought the deaf mute to Jesus without waiting for the man to ask to be healed. They knew that Jesus was passing by and that was enough for them to bring the deaf man to him. In doing so they saved him from his silence and inability to communicate. The more Jesus is present in the life of friends and acquaintances, the greater is their capacity for communication.

We complain if we are overlooked, sometimes even by people we love.  We are unhappy when we feel ignored, especially by those who are important to us. We look among our friends for someone who can present us to Jesus. He will be moved to compassion by our misery, as he was in the case of the deaf mute, and he will give us the gift of hearing and speech.  Nobody who meets Jesus, no matter how wretched he may be, ever returns to his previous state.  Christ heals the person he meets by restoring him to the community, with the gift of speech and the will to listen.

When he was healed, the deaf mute told everybody what had happened to him, even though Jesus had ordered him to keep quiet about it. He could not remain silent about what Jesus had done for him. Freed from his illness, he became a preacher.  He could not remain silent because he knew that what he had received did not belong to him. His personal experience became the subject of his preaching and his reason for proclaiming Jesus.  Speaking about what God does in our lives frees us from our silence and enables us to open up to others.

Today as in the past, anyone who has an experience of God must not remain silent. Anyone who has been cured of his silence will risk even disobedience to be able to speak about Jesus. We need people who are able to communicate, who will share with us and are ready to listen to us.  We need believers who will build communities where everyone can hear the word and where everyone is taken into consideration. If our Church does not succeed at all levels in becoming an open community, a place where people listen to each other, it will not be a healthy community, much less a Christian community.

PRAYER

Since it is from you, God our Father,
that redemption comes to us, your adopted children,
look with favour on the family you love,
give true freedom to us and to all who believe in Christ,
and bring us all alike to our eternal heritage.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

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PLAY AUDIO

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Music used in the reflection: “Memories Again” by Lee Rosevere (CC-BY-NC)

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