TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY
First Reading ( Is 35:4-7 ):
God's saving grace renews all things
“Jesus put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” (Mk 7: 33 – 37)
Usually Jesus spoke a word only and it was enough to cure a sick person. For example once when he cured a man with a withered hand, he just said, “Stretch out your hand!” and the man stretched it out and his hand was restored. ( See Mk 3:1-5)
This time Jesus used an external action, as putting his fingers into the man's ears. And he used material things, as saliva to touch the man's tongue. He also performed a special action –he looked up to heaven and sighed, then said the words, ‘ Be opened!’
This makes us think of the Sacraments. In the sacraments, Jesus is present in the priest who also uses a series of actions, words and external signs to arouse faith and hope in the participants. Then they can be better prepared to receive the graces our Lord bestows through the sacrament.
As the deaf-mute could not hear what Jesus said, the action of Jesus
‘looking up to heaven’ enabled him to see and feel more clearly that
Jesus was praying for him and cared for him.
The steps Jesus took to cure the deaf-mute were consistent with psychological principles. Many people have speech difficulties because they have hearing problems: they cannot hear so naturally they cannot speak.
If we apply this principle to the problem of the ‘lay apostolate’,
can we not say that if the faithful do not spread the gospel it is because
they have been ‘deaf’ to it and so are ‘mute’ in preaching it? Think
about it: if people have not heard the gospel how can they preach about
it ? If what they have heard is unclear, incomplete or too vague, what
can they preach? If they have not heard enough of the gospel or have
too little experience, how are they able to cultivate sufficient zeal
and motivation to preach it?
The ‘Way’ is the content of our faith. The main point of faith is not
what is taken away, but rather what is cultivated, what we receive and
carry out in our lives. It is similar to planting. The main step is
not pulling up the weeds, but rather what and how we plant the seed.
Moreover, if we fear there are too many weeds, we must plant more seeds.
For example, if we can plant a great variety of vegetables in the garden,
will we not be able to lessen the weeds?
A mother may sin if she does not direct and teach her children, a doctor may sin by being careless or failing to pursue further knowledge. These are sins of omission.
The Church fails to become localized or adopt the spirit of Vatican II; we fail to identify with one or other aspect of our three-fold identity as ‘Hong Kong person, Chinese person, Christian.’ Or we neglect to prepare well before teaching a class in doctrine, or we are so self-centered we forget or lack awareness to reach out to a despairing or lonely person. All these can be sinful. These are all elements an ideal world should have, the ‘Way’ in which the world can be filled with love.
Let us ask Jesus to open our ears so that we can hear his voice and his way of life. Thus our tongues will be loosened and we will be able to spread his Way.