Isaiah 35:4-7; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37
Communication is one of the most important things human beings cannot do without. We need to communicate in order to be understood. We need to communicate to stay in communion with our friends, our families and all those around us. Without communication, the world would be so disorderly. That is why it is important to speak and to hear without which communication cannot be possible.
We don’t only need to hear and speak with our fellow human beings but with God too. Our faith is the capability to hear the Word of God and to profess it. It is our capability to enter into communion with God and communicate him into our lives and those of others.
Today, in the Gospel, Jesus heals a deaf man who also could not speak [dumb]. The miracles of Jesus are not recorded to amuse us but they are pointers to a deeper reality. Today’s miracle teaches us that we too are deaf and dumb spiritually. We need to have ears to hear the Word of God and speech to communicate our faith to him and to others.
Jesus shows us the importance of hearing his Word and professing our faith by being particular with this man. He takes him aside in private, uses his own fingers into the man’s ears; and touches the man’s tongue with spittle. He takes particular attention with us. When we are baptized, each is called by his or her own name. Each one is called to listen to the Word and profess the faith. Do we listen to the Word of God which comes to us through different means: our brothers and sisters, leaders, elders? What is our attitude when we come to church? Do we listen to the Word of God or are there so many things on our mind? Do we feel obliged to communicate and share our faith with others? Are we witnesses of Jesus in our society today?
In the first reading, Prophet Isaiah speaks to Israel during a very difficult moment in their history. Israel was under military threat from her enemies. Usually, the prophets reminded people that they were going through a difficult period because of their disobedience. Failure to listen to the Word of God and failure to profess him by their acts led to the exile when Israel was taken into slavery by other nations.
But prophets did not just spell doom for the people. They also hoped for a better future. Isaiah in the reading thus speaks of hope. He speaks of a time when the blind would see, the deaf would hear, the lame would walk and the dumb would speak. He speaks of prosperity for Israel.
We too are chosen to bring hope to our society. Are we voices of hope in our families, in our society, in our schools, in our places of work? Don’t we, instead, always speak bad news? When we open our mouths, aren’t we always pessimistic about things?
The Word of God always hopes for better things. Maybe we don’t hear His word. We don’t recognize that He can change things in our families, in our society, in our country. There is a saying that you cannot give what you don’t have. If you don’t have hope, you cannot give it to others. We find true hope in the Word of God. Maybe we fail to inspire others with hope because we don’t listen to him who always cares for humankind.
If we hear the word of God and profess our faith, our lives should reflect who we are in our communities. St James condemns leading lives of double standards. He encourages us to seek justice for the poor and not to make distinctions between classes of people. It is no point to hear the Word of God and sit back. We must get to work. We must get our hands dirty. It is good to hear the Word of God and profess the creeds but if that change nothing in our society, then we are like a noisy but empty gong sounding in the streets.
I found Fr. William praying the rosary around the compound. I had just driven in from one of our outstations where I took holy communion to an ailing lady. The old priest looked up as I parked our only car into a makeshift garage. Our eyes met and he smiled at me. Almost all his teeth had been replaced with artificial ones.
“Hallo brother. How’s she?” He asked.
“Not bad. I think she is going to live for a few more weeks,” I replied.
“A few more weeks, umh. That’s what life is all about. A few more weeks…”
I didn’t understand what he meant but I never bothered to. Fr. William should save his last breath for reciting the rosary. Last month, we celebrated his 81st birthday. Every year, we have to make his birthday special. He was not going to live long so each year added to his many were special.
I have never seen a man so faithful to his vocation as Fr. William. He had done a lot for the people and had it not been for his age, he would still pick up his books and visit the sick in hospitals. Or he would be strumming the guitar for some young people with cracked voices.
“If you have time, we can take a walk. I feel stronger today,” he told me as I made my way to the front door of our friary. I really wanted to have a nap before the Vespers but I didn’t want to disappoint him. So I excused myself for a minute just to remove my Franciscan habit.
“What do you think about sexual abuse scandals by Catholic priests and religious?” He asked abruptly as we headed for a small hill just behind our compound. There, we could have a view of a primary school built by our first missionaries. It had been handed over to the government because of lack of personnel. We could see children trooping out of the classrooms probably for break. They would wave at us and shout Fr. William’s name. He would occasionally lift his frail hand and wave back at them.
The question caught me unaware. I thought I should have asked him the question instead.
“Its unfortunate,” I said dryly. He chuckled signaling that I should continue talking. “Its unfortunate that the church found itself in such a precarious situation. Priests and religious are human but that’s not enough excuse.”
“And sounds like a denial of the problem. Please continue…,” he urged me on. There were some children from the school still shouting his name. He ignored them.
“We’ve injured souls. Its good the church is no longer living in denial but acknowledging the mess and promising to do more,” I said. The old priest focused his eyes on the school. I could sense there was something he was thinking about. Or he was trying to piece up his words and express his thoughts to me. We stood just on top of the hill. We could look beyond the school into a distant small forest. He looked peaceful.
“Maybe we were not doing enough in our seminaries to learn about sex. Maybe we separated the body and the soul thinking that the latter would not demand to be heard. We did well in spiritual training but we neglected the physical and emotional aspects. Did you learn about sex in the seminary?”
“Er…ah…sex? No…t really,” I said feeling uncomfortable about it. I couldn’t remember dealing with it directly. If we ever talked about it, it was as a way of learning how to talk about it to others. We had information but not formation.
Fr. William sensed my shame and chuckled.
“Brother, that’s where we make a mistake. We learn so much to become teachers but pay little attention to become students of life. I am glad you feel ashamed. That’s honesty. We can begin from your shame,” he said…
….TO BE CONTINUED