Daily Reflection
September 7th, 2003
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 35:4-7
Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
James 2:1-5
Mark 7:31-37

So as to be more available to the graces of today’s readings, one might imagine Jesus’ using signing to communicate with a person who his friends have brought to Jesus. They have told Jesus their friend cannot hear nor speak. The man apparently does not know who Jesus is nor about his having healed others.

By hand-gestures Jesus has signed whether the man wants to hear and speak again, or remain separated. The man begins nodding his head vigorously and smiling, but then doubts begin diminishing his enthusiasm. Then we see Jesus lay his hands gently on the man’s ears and touch his mouth. The crowd becomes speechless as the man begins trying to make sounds.

 Our readings in today’s liturgy center us about the double gifts of listening-hearing and speaking-talking. They both have to do with “ephphatha”- “be open.” At the liturgy itself, we are invited to listen to the Word of God and to affirm our having heard by thanking God. With little babies, hearing comes first, then speaking. “In the beginning was the Word” and then the Word was spoken. There is a great grace involved in more than hearing, but actually listening. There is a great grace for which to pray that we might speak, converse, and communicate rather than merely talking.  Jesus unimpeded the man from one form of separation to be more available to community, communication, and conversion.

We can pray for the freedom to listen first to ourselves, then to God’s Word, and then to God’s people, especially those in need. Then we might pray for the freedom and enthusiasm to speak of the goodness of God in our lives, in the lives of others, and this world. We might pray also to speak the truth of the Gospel as it centers our prayerful attention on the areas of injustice, violence, and the needs of the poor.

In today’s First Reading we listen to and hear a familiar Advent passage from the prophet Isaiah. The Prophet is speaking to Israel in distant exile from its homeland. On the day of liberation, natural and physical impossibilities will take place. On that day those who have trusted will hear and be able to see great things which will affirm that God has not abandoned them. The blind will see; those whose sense of hearing has been lost will be restored. Rivers will run in the desert which will bloom in fertile soil. 

Israel is being made promises and is being asked to trust and hope that their exile will come to an end. They are to watch for the signs. God has been using signing with many gestures through creation and covenants and prophecies so that God’s people would trust their being holy and belonging to God. They had grown blind and deaf to these signs and words, but God remains faithful through it all.

In the Gospel today, we see Jesus becoming literally a “hearing aid.”  He is fulfilling the promise that the deaf would hear and the mute speak. He prays “be open” and so the man’s senses of hearing and speaking return.  How he uses these gifts is not told and it is secondary to the act of recovery which Jesus desires to perform by his coming as Word.

There is more than a single miracle taking place here; there is a dramatic invitation.  At the baptism of an infant, a prayer is recited while the ears of the child are touched so that soon the goodness of God and life would be heard and understood. The mouth is touched as well in a blessing that soon the praise of God would be spoken. The miraculous invitation to us all is to be “open” to the Word, not merely the word of Scripture, but the Word of the ever-communicating, never-silent God.

There is something known as “White Noise” which is a kind of hissing, humming, constant flowing sound that dulls other noises in offices and other work places. It is meant to free the workers from distractions so to be more concentrated.  In the dorm rooms here at Creighton there is a form of that. While the students are studying, they can have music blasting in their ears, but it seems to center them more than silence; yes, that is a miracle. Work and study need concentration, but the “being open” to which Jesus invites us is broader.

We tend to hear that for which we are listening. Midst much static on my radio, I can, if I listen intently hear the ball scores which nobody else might hear. I want to know them! Parents have told me that while they are actually sleeping, they are also listening for the safe return of their teenagers. While composing this tonight, I was listening also for the doorbell and it rang very softly in the front of our house, but I heard it, because I was listening for it.

“Seeing God in all things” is a famous spiritual saying.  Jesus came and continues coming as Word to be heard. The “be open” is the divine invitation to listen to God in all things. It is too easy to believe that God speaks only to correct or advise, or instruct. Jesus is the Divine hearing aid and that healing aid is given so that we are enabled to hear God’s loving words in all the events of life. Being open to what we want to hear only is childish and self-absorbed.  Hearing and listening to God’s quiet voice is humbling and faithful. Our fears and frailties can result in postures of our expecting to hear shaming and punishing pointers. We will hear what we are listening for and the real miracle is that the Word has been spoken that we are forgiven and freed from the captivities and exiles of our own separation and negativity.

It is only after we have been freed from not hearing God’s loving embrace of our human family and person, that we will be freed from our inabilities to speak the just and comforting word ourselves. What we hear will determine how and what we speak.  It is a most holy thing to want to hear the loving word of God more than I want to hear the ball scores.

Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God. My soul is thirsting for the living God.” Ps. 42


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