September 5, 2021: Homily-23th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Everybody has an opinion these days, about everything.  Or at least it  appears that way.  It seems that nearly everything that happens, whether locally, nationally, or internationally, is soon followed by a barrage of all kinds of people weighing in with their opinions.  And not always thoughtful, insightful, or informed opinions.  In fact, it’s often quite the opposite.  We often hear some story about something or someone and our first instinct is to jump to a quick opinion, a quick conclusion – negative or positive. And so, many of us tend to jump right on social media and begin either praising or condemning, either supporting or ridiculing, either building up or tearing down.  Given the amount of this sort of “discourse” (I’m using that word sarcastically, of course.) I can only assume that many of us really love doing that, really love chiming in on every sort of subject or event or action of a particular person famous or otherwise.

We sure do seem to love hearing ourselves speak, love hearing what WE have to say.

“He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Of course, we don’t just do it on social media.  We sometimes do it in conversations with family and friends, making sure we say what we want to say before anyone else gets a chance.  We sometimes do it in romantic relationships – harping about our concerns and needs and wants, without paying much attention to the concerns of our spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend.  We even sometimes do it with our kids – correcting and scolding and “laying down the law” without even really trying to find out what our son or daughter is thinking or feeling.

Speak first, listen later (if at all).  That seems to be the pattern for many of us.

“He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Those are the words we just heard in today’s Gospel passage from Mark, the story in which Jesus heals a deaf man who not surprisingly has a speech impediment.  And he does so in a very physical way, by touching the man’s ears and THEN touching the man’s tongue.  And I can’t help but think that the ORDER in which he performs this miracle, matters – for it matches what we know from human experience to be true, that it is nearly impossible to speak with complete clarity if one has difficulty hearing with clarity.  In other words, it is a difficulty in hearing that results in a difficulty in speech – not the other way around.

Is that what’s happening to so many of us, myself included?  Have we fallen in love with the sound of our own voices, fallen in love with our own opinions and thoughts, fallen in love with what WE have to say – that we are no longer really listening, no longer hearing the sound of the most important voice of all, the voice within?

Put it another way,  do we even try to listen to the voice of God BEFORE we speak?  Or do we feel we’ve basically “heard” enough, been taught enough, experienced enough of life, and therefore there really is nothing else God needs to tell us?  Do we simply talk and talk and talk – not realizing that what we are saying is so far beneath who we are, so greatly diminished and impoverished, so lacking in kindness and compassion and understanding and love?  Do we actually think that we can speak clearly – “speak” the words (and actions) that God wants us to speak – without making sure that we are hearing just as clearly?

I don’t mean to suggest that it is easy to hear God’s voice.  It isn’t.  So often, there are so many other voices trying to compete with it.  Our own egos.  Our own wants and desires and dreams.  Pressure from others who might not really be looking out for us.  Societal norms and trends and attitudes.  Lots of other voices that might be getting in the way.  But one things is certain – we’ll never hear God’s voice if we never try to “tune in” to it.  We’ll never hear God’s voice if we don’t believe that he is truly trying to communicate with us.  We’ll never hear God’s voice if we don’t listen for it in the silence of our rooms and in the silence of our hearts.  And we’ll never hear God’s voice if deep down we’re afraid of what he might have to say, afraid of the changes he might ask us to make.

My friends in Christ, a lot of us are good at “speaking” – are good at saying and doing whatever works for us, whatever feels good in the moment, whatever makes us feel that we’re important or we’re in charge or we have all the answers.  But the truth is that a life of faith can never be like that – for a life of faith is about living for God and, therefore, living for others – not simply living for ourselves.  And so, let’s be open to the miracles God wants to work in our lives, miracles that will help us be more forgiving and generous and kind and compassionate and loving.  That’s what God wants for each of us and from each of us.  But it can’t happen if we continue to be deaf to the voice of God calling us to be more than we are today.

“He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

May God do precisely that in every human heart – starting with you and me.

Short Story

Who is deaf?  An old man is talking to the family doctor. “Doctor, I think my wife’s going deaf.” The doctor answers, “Well, here’s something you can try on her to test her hearing. Stand some distance away from her without facing her and ask her a question. If she doesn’t answer, move a little closer and ask again. Keep repeating this until she answers. Then you’ll be able to tell just how hard of hearing she really is.” The man goes home and tries it out. He walks in the door and asks, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” He doesn’t hear an answer, so he moves closer to her. “Honey, what’s for dinner?” Still he gets no answer. He repeats this several times, until he’s standing just one foot away from her. Finally, she answers, “For the eleventh time, I said we’re having meat loaf!” Who’s deaf – the man or the wife?

Father Boat

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