The 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s gospel is unusual and somewhat puzzling.  Here was someone born deaf and dumb who was suddenly and miraculously cured by Our Lord, but he and those around are asked not to talk about it.  Wasn’t that asking the impossible?  Can you imagine being that deaf man and not talking about your miraculous cure?  Why would Our Lord make such a strange request?

Our Lord’s request wasn’t made out of false humility.  Our Lord wanted people to thank God for His gifts to them and to witness to God’s saving acts revealed in our humanity.  If Jesus stood for anything at all, it was to reveal God’s saving love and actions in our midst.

We human beings have a tendency to seek out, be moved, and be awed by things that are spectacular.  The Opening Ceremonies of the last few Olympic Games have been jaw-dropping.  People are thrilled by attending a rock concert or a competitive football match.  And it seems that things need to be totally awesome for us to accept them as reality.  Bogus faith healers and visionaries, along with people who claim to have direct revelations from God are not usually modest in presenting their agendas to us.  How many times have we heard that the Second Coming of Christ is going to happen on such-and-such a day?  How many times have we been told that the end of the world is near?  The media doesn’t tell us what happens to all those people when the healings don’t last and the visions and revelations prove to be false.

I think Our Lord’s request for silence was grounded on the fact that He wanted people to pay attention to who He is and what He has to say, rather than His spectacular miracles.  And sure enough, didn’t all of those involved in that healing of the deaf man run out, broadcast it everywhere, and shout all over the place about what Jesus had done?  But the real question is this: Did they change their lives, did they accept Our Lord’s teachings and follow Him?

Our Lord doesn’t want us to be overawed by the spectacular, but rather to be open to God’s word for us.  It’s all about having eyes to see and ears to hear what God wants us to be doing.

So what do you hear when people are talking with you?  What do you hear from the hearts of your fellow Sisters, or from your spouse, from your parents and friends, or from the hearts of your children?  Now I’m not talking about listening to them, but about hearing them.  Do we hear what God has to say to us when He speaks to us in Sacred Scripture?  God speaks to us in a special way in His Church.  The Mass is the privileged place where His word is proclaimed every day.

The Pope is one of the most photographed men in the world.  Whenever he appears in public it’s a media event.  Crowds love the spectacle.  But after the show is over, have they heard what he has to say and do they accept his teachings?

When I was a student in Rome I used to go to the annual Mass in St. Peter’s which began the new academic year.  The basilica was always packed full for the start of the Mass but as soon as the Holy Father (that was Pope John Paul II) had walked up the central aisle and reached the altar, many of the people in the congregation left.  They had witnessed the spectacle of the grand entrance procession and of seeing the pope pass by and that was enough for them.  They didn’t stay for the Mass or to hear what the pope had to say.

Until relatively recently the people of our own nation had ears to hear and they acted on the belief that human life is to be centred on God.  But what do we hear today?  Perhaps the man who was deaf 2,000 years ago wasn’t the only one who needed a cure.  For whom was that miracle intended?  Was it just for that deaf man?  Or for the people who witnessed the miracle?  Or for us today?  It’s all about having eyes to see and ears to hear what God wants us to be doing.

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