“The Lord of all creation”
by Sr Mary Bridget Dunlea FMA
If today were not a Sunday, we would be celebrating the feast of one of the four Patrons of Ireland – St.Ciaran of Clonmacnoise. Ciaran’s message was very simple – love and joy; love for all God’s creationand joy in all God created. That for me is one clear message in today’s Word of God.
Isaiah calls out to us to spread this word, “Say to all, “Look, your God is coming.”, The Prophet promisesgifts in abundance will flow from this presence – gifts for human beings and for creation. “The eyes of theblind shall be opened; the ears of the deaf unsealed; thetongues of the dumb sing for joy.” All creation,too, will recognise God’s presence – water will gush.. streams, lakes and springs for parched land.
Isaiah calls on creation “to rejoice and bloom; to rejoice and sing for joy.” Our early Irish saints hadenormous reverence and compassion for the natural world. This active compassion sprang from the conviction that the natural world, just as much as the human “is charged with sparks of the divinepresence and both are reflections of the glory of the Creator.” During this “Season of Creation” theChurch asks us to listen to the cry of the earth.
In “Laudato Sì” Pope Francis recalls the words of his patron, St. Francis of Assisi, who reminds us thatour “ common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens herarms to embrace us.” Pope Francis continues, “This sister now cries out to us, because of the harm wehave inflicted on her… We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder herat will.”
St James has a message for us here. He warns us, “Do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ withmaking of distinctions.” To quote Pope Francis once more, “Authentic human development has amoral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us. Accordingly, our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God’s original gift of all that is.”
“Jesus went right through the region” as if searching for the deaf man – searching for the one who isready to hear His appeal. I quote the words of St. Columbanus, one of our early Irish missionaries,” Try to understand the creation, if you would wish to know theCreator.” Jesus still seeks those who wish “toperceive the eternal word of God reflected in every plant and insect, every bird and animal, every manand woman.”
Lord say Your word, “ Be opened ” to our eyes and to our ears that we may perceive and believe, and rejoice.
Scripture readings: Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com
Reflections and Prayers by Fr Jack Finnegan SDB
1st Reading – Isaiah 35:4-7
Say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.
Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy;
for water gushes in the desert,
streams in the wasteland,
the scorched earth becomes a lake,
the parched land springs of water.
Our first reading today is a delightful poem about God’s creative and saving love and the promise of a glorious future. The heart of the poem lies in its words of encouragement and its list of saving miracles. The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame leap like stags, the mute sing, and streams and rivers flow in barren ground.Burning sands become pools and thirsty ground springs of water.It is not difficult to see here a foretelling of the mighty deeds of Jesus in the gospels. But there is also an inner meaning. Where is the anxiety? What do I need to see more clearly? What do I need to hear? Who or what am I not listening to? What am I afraid of? What do I need to transcend in my own life? Or where are the living springs? And where is the dryness, the doubt, the lack of responsibility, the inaction? Where are the streams of creativity? And where is the distress, the emotional immaturity, the denial? Can I make my own the prophet’s words of encouragement: Be strong, fear not!Here is your God,he comes with relief;with divine recompensehe comes to save you. God is always leading us out of our places of exile and estrangement. God is always embracing us with compassion and love. Can we reach out to others in the same way? Or do we try to keep it all a secret? Are we open to creative living?
LORD, Adonai, you are always coming to save us. Day by day you come to us. Your creative presence is ever at hand. You are our destiny, our glorious future. Encourage us today. Let us see as you see. Let us hear as you hear. May we leap and dance for your glory in the cosmic music of your loving Spirit. When we stand in burning desert sands seeking the waters of life lead us to your springs and fountains. Open our ears to listen for the truth. Open our eyes to see what is real. Free us from every fear. May crystal streams flow in our dry places. May honest praise spring from our lips. And may your love shine in our lives. Now and forever. Amen.
Praise celebrates God. Psalm 146 is the first of five halleluiah psalms that bring the psalter to a close. The lesson is one of praise flowing from the depths of our hearts to our loving God. The prayer of praise is not easy not least because we do not have many words with which to let it soar. Another reason is found in our often unrecognised yet thoroughly self-centred forms of thought, feeling and action. So often our concern focuses on God’s help rather than God. How often do we focus on the vast compassionate and challenging mystery of God? Praise moves us beyond self-concern. It moves us outwards, beyond ourselves. It focuses entirely on the Other. We need to be set free of whatever prevents praise from flowing from loving lips. As in the first reading we need to be healed of our blindness to God’s creative action in the world and the cosmos. Do we notice oppression overcome? Do we help with famine relief? Do we seek to overcome injustice? Do we acknowledge just deeds? Do we protect the stranger in our midst? Do we work to see evil overcome? Such actions always reveal the hand of God at work in the world. Our praise and our gratitude recognise and give voice to such appreciation. In fact, life lived with intentional integrity is life lived in praise of God. Give it a try!
LORD, Adonai, I praise you with every fibre of my being. How wonderful you are! All loving! Glorious! Magnificent! Challenging! Delightful! Dazzling! Astonishing! Radiant! I worship you and honour you! I acclaim you! I applaud your mighty deeds! You are holy! You are faithful! You are just! You are full of compassion! You raise us up! You are on the side of the poor and the stranger! You are Elohim, the Strong One! You are El Shaddai, the Almighty! You are ElElyon, God Most High! You are El Roi, the God who sees me! May you be praised everywhere, from sunrise to sunset, and down the dark hours of night! Open my eyes to your creative action and presence in the world. Open my ears to your music. And may my life and behaviour align with my praise of your glory! Now and forever. Amen.
2nd Reading – James 2:1-5
My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, ‘Come this way to the best seats’; then you tell the poor man, ‘Stand over there’ or ‘You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.’ Can’t you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?
Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.
Today we are unmistakably reminded that any Christian worthy of the name treats the poor with respect, compassion and integrity. The Letteralso confronts us with issues in the faith community to do with fairness and equality. Do we act out of class or cultural consciousness or out of genuine regard and concern? This is not an easy question to answer. We have all been socially conditioned. So very often our actions and reactions reveal the continuing impact of learned behaviours. How conscious and intentional are our concern, our compassion, our creative actions on behalf of others? Do my reactions reveal the richness of my faith or just how unconscious and habitual so much of my behaviour actually is? God has chosen the poor to inherit the kingdom. Do I live in such awareness?
Lord Jesus, remind me today that how I view and treat the poor is how I view and treat you! Tap me on the shoulder when I cross the road to avoid one of your poor friends. Let me see with your eyes and hear with your ears. Open me to the truth of poverty of spirit. Open me to the margins and the people who live there. May my hands be rich in your love, my eyes rich in your compassion. May I live and understand the meaning of equality and fairness. May I see you in the face of the poor and the homeless. May I hear you in the voice of the oppressed. What I do to the least I do to you. You have chosen the poor to inherit the kingdom. May I live that liberating awareness. Now and forever. Amen.
Gospel 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.’
Today we reflect on the first of two miracle stories that are found only in Mark. The other is the healing of a blind man in Bethsaida. While the other evangelists depict Jesus as healing solely through a word in these two stories Mark depicts him employing healing technique. But Mark is also concerned with the journey of the disciples and in these two stories suggests that they were deaf and blind. Where does discipleship begin? What am I deaf (or blind) to in the gospel, in the teaching of Jesus? Do my ears need to be opened? Does my tongue need to be released? What aspects of Christian belief do I refuse to speak? How defensive am I? How taciturn? Can I say about Jesus, He has done all things welleven if scandals are rife in the Church? The challenge today is to seek ways to be open to Jesus’ loving touch, to let Jesus break the chain that keeps my tongue a prisoner of culture, to praise God.
Lord Jesus, take me off by myself like the deaf one I am. Liberate me from the crowd and the noise. Open for me the secrets of silence. Put your finger in my ears. Break the chain the keeps my tongue a silenced prisoner in the wilderness of cultural correctness that ignores your living word. Bathe me in your grace. Warm my heart in your love. Let me hear you in the cry of the poor. Let me see you in the struggle of the oppressed. May I taste the peace that flows from knowing who you are. Help me to speak plainly about you in public and in personal spaces. Inspire and strengthen me to speak the truth of your word. Help me say about you that you have done all things well. It is we who have failed you. May your ear hear me today, your hand bless me. Be my light today. Shine through my darkness. Shine in our faith community. Now and forever. Amen.
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.
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.
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.