23rd Sunday B – Noticing the Word
My mother told me I’d have days when only a miracle would get me through. She was right. I’ve had many a morning when upon wakening I wondered how I’d get through the day. People to be seen and listened to, a broken boiler to be fixed or replaced, a school and hospital to be visited, Mass and anointings at a local nursing home, a meeting with first communion parents, phone calls to be made and returned…. And that might be only half of it! When the going gets tough we hope for a miracle. And the miracles happen, but not usually in the dramatic style in which they were done by Jesus in the gospels. In this Sunday’s Gospel we see a man with two strikes against him being miraculously cured. His stammering speech and loss of hearing would have sentenced him to a life of being overlooked – in family and social gatherings especially. His impediments meant he couldn’t keep up with others. His sense of loneliness and failure would have wounded him.
Then out of the blue steps Jesus right into his life, and relieves him of these blockages and gives him a better life by putting his finger into the man’s ears and placing spittle on his tongue. Those of us who hear this gospel on Sunday may not suffer from deafness and speech stammer. But there’s a deeper sense in which we may be at a loss:: Who or what do we listen to? At our baptism, the priest placed his fingers on our ears and on our lips while saying this prayer: The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father. Amen. This little baptismal ritual sets us on the road to paying attention to God’s word and message of eternal life, and to proclaiming it by our lifestyle. Voices of material success and affluence are everywhere. Christians try to live a life that finds its meaning and energy in being loved and accepted by God.
The ‘character’ of baptism says we are changed. The fact that we are Christian cannot be rubbed or scrubbed off us, even if we reject it. In healing the deaf mute Jesus may be coaxing and encouraging us to acknowledge who we are as baptised people: made in the divine image, loved unconditionally, not judged by the street we live on, the car we drive or the clothes we wear. What matters is what God finds, accepts and loves when he looks into our hearts and sees his own image there. We become spiritually and even culturally deaf to this our heritage when we forget who we are and that our spiritual (real) birth came about through water and the Holy Spirit. Baptism sets us on the road to recognise and proclaim the reality of Christ alive in the world when we hear his word.
Pope Francis recommends the Lectio Divina method of listening to the word of God in Sacred Scripture. “This method,” he said, “is first of all a matter of reading the biblical passage attentively. I would say with submission to the text, to understand what it means in and of itself. One then enters into dialogue with the scripture, so that the words become a meditation and prayer: while remaining faithful to the text, I begin to ask myself what it is saying to me. This is a delicate step into subjective interpretations, but we must be faithful to the deep Tradition of the Scriptures. The last step of Lectio Divina is contemplation. Words and thoughts give way to love, as between lovers when each gazes at the other in silence. The scripture text remains, but like a mirror, like an icon to be contemplated. In this way a dialogue is set up that readies us for encounter with Christ” – General Audience, 27th January 2021.
Fr. QQ – o9/01/2021
Without the Spirit, Jesus remains a person from the past; With the Spirit he is a person alive in our time.- Pope Francis