In our technological world, we are constantly being spoken to either verbally or by the written word. Live TV reports, e-mail, texting and a host of other means on the Internet are at our fingertips. But no matter how often we listen to or read a message, the best communication takes place face-to-face, in person.
In today’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37), we see a man who is brought to Jesus for healing who was deaf and had a speech impediment. “Jesus took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue: then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ - that is, ‘Be opened!’ -- And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.”
Most of us can hear pretty well and when we can’t we can get help through hearing aids. For those who have trouble with speaking, we have speech therapists. Most of our inability to listen or to speak plainly is not due to any physical problem but because of distractions or inner reluctance. There are issues, fears, and confusion that cause us to think and even say, “I really don’t want to hear what you have to say.” It might be because we do not want to get involved or to say what we really think in response. For whatever reason, we do not want to invest any of our time, energy, or resources. But problems do not go away just because we ignore them. I have mentioned in a previous column how I was called by a person in my first parish who said there was a young man dying who was away from the Church and did not want to see a priest and told me I should go. There were ready made excuses I could make to stay away, but in my heart I knew what God was calling me to do. I was ordained a priest to bring his healing, hope, love, and presence to those He called me to serve. I went and knocked on the young man’s door, was let in by one of his parents, and was brought to his bedside. We had a pleasant conversation about his life and his sickness, but there was no mention of God, death, or faith. After my second visit to him, when I was leaving I asked if he would like a blessing. He said yes and I made the sign of the cross over him, said the words, and gently touched his shoulder. The next time I went to see him he said, “I was touched by that blessing” and asked to go to Confession, receive Holy Communion and the Sacrament of the Sick. He died at peace and his openness to receive the sacraments brought great comfort to himself and his parents. I relate this simple, but powerful experience in my life to highlight how good it is to respond to the voice of God in our hearts.
Compassion is a virtue that enables us to not only reach out to those who are suffering. Most times we do not even give a second thought to reaching out in difficult situations of sickness or death. I recently read this meditation from Henri Nouwen in the book You Are The Beloved: “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” In the last week of August, I went to an evening sponsored by Thrive, an organization that reaches out and seeks to help those who are addicted to opioids and their families. Many of the people there were parents of adult children who died from overdoses. How sad, but how hopeful they were to share their sorrow and strength and to seek ways to stop this deadly epidemic that killed their children. Their suffering leads them to reach out to others and for others. They are a beautiful example of compassion and commitment for others. The inner voice is loud, clear, and life-giving in their hearts.
We, the people of St. Patrick’s parish family, last weekend reached out financially and gave approximately $44,500 to help the victims of the flood in the state of Kerala where Fr. Shibi and Fr. Jobin come from in India. Their fellow priests were personally involved in rescue efforts and now are working to feed and shelter those whose homes were destroyed. For us, this was not just another tragic event on the other side of the world, but a call to touch lives of our brothers and sisters in need. We heard and responded to the voice of God in our hearts.
Last weekend I spoke at all of the Masses about the evil of sexual abuse of children in the church by priests. The weekend before I invited anyone who wanted to speak about it to see me after Mass in the gym. I thank all those who took the time to express their thoughts and concerns. Healing will take a long time, but some of the procedures are in place. At every scheduled Mass in our parish, we are praying for those who have been abused. Let us also pray for those who not only did this evil but also for those who mishandled and covered it up. The more they can take accountability for what they did and admit mishandling and apologize, the further along the road to healing the victims, their families and all of us will be. Our concern and prayers are a sign of compassion.
We will not literally hear the words Jesus spoke to the deaf man with a speech impediment. The word Ephphata is powerfully spoken by Him in the depths of our heart. How good we are every time we respond positively. Then the words of this simple prayer come to life: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Our response to God’s voice is the AMEN to that prayer as we make the Glory of God real and life-giving. Through our personal quiet prayer, we go off with Jesus alone and allow him to open not only our ears and mouths but, even more, our minds and hearts to love as He loves us.
Fr. WaldBACK TO LIST