There is nothing we can do to make God love us more, nor less.
Love is more than a feeling. Love is a relational commitment freely offered and for humans it is based on something or somethings present and real in the other. She/he is attractive in some way of personality and physically. In a very narrow sense love is earned or won or results from these attractivenesses.
People dress in a certain way, pretty themselves up, lose weight, build muscles and all for the sake of being loveable and so, hopefully, loved. God’s love is way more different.
We are not, in any way, the reason God loves us. It is true that we can make ourselves more available and receptive to God’s love. God’s God, that is, God does what God is and that is all God can do. God is love and here’s something to ponder, we are how God loves. God is God’s personal reason for loving and creating and redeeming us. We do not dress up for the liturgy to win more love. We do not even do virtuous acts for that purpose. We dress up, do good deeds, because we are freely loved and we can’t do anything about that except receive it or reject it. It is always there!
Orderliness was godliness for the people of Israel to whom Isaiah was announcing what we hear in our First Reading. This idea of strict order comes from the nightly observances of the heavenly arrangements of stars and planets. God was “up there” and so being “down here” was meant to reflect that consistency, reliability and brightness. There was, for the prophet, a “day”, a “time”, and a “then”, of disorder here on earth which would be re-ordered and earth and heaven would be joined and experienced.
Sin and disobedience of any kind would result in fracturing of the unity in some way. To be blind, deaf or lame would be viewed as being out of order. Earth and earthlings were to be like the stars, but there were break-ups.
What we hear today is the promise of these fractures being healed, not only those of the physical human body, but in the earthly places as well. The dry land will be with water and the flowers will bloom again. The orderliness of God will be present and the fractions will be made whole. It will be the day and time of the Promised One, the Messiah!
Our Gospel reading today ends with the great affirmation of Jesus, that He has done all things well. He has come down from the heavens and has been bringing about physical order as was promised. Jesus has met the Messianic test. We have proof, He heals the person from his being unable to hear or speak and in other situations the blind to see. The heavens have come down and earth will become again a well-planted, well-ordered and well-producing garden.
In doing baptisms of infants I love the final blessings of the child’s ears and mouth. I am deeply aware of all that this little person will hear and based on that what he/she will say. What will they hear about themselves which will free or bind them to speak well or ill of the person now newly claimed for Christ. Jesus heals this man’s ears and ability to speak. In the Jewish communities of those times, this man’s being “out-of-order” separates him. Having hearing difficulties in itself can distance the hearing impaired from others as well. So this man was at a double-distance which naturally results in his feeling inferior, or less a person, unrelational.
The physical healing is secondary then to how he will hear his truth. Jesus came to give us back our selves, our truth, His truth within us. Perhaps we listen to “old” voices whose sounds are so familiar that they drown out “new” voices which are like newly-purchase shoes which are not comfortable when first tried on. This healed-hearer lives with who he now is and part of that is who he was in his eyes and those of the community. This re-entering his true self takes healing-time too. When Jesus prays, “Be open” He is speaking both of the physical and interior ears. He is speaking of how the man is to listen to what he now is free to speak having had is mouth opened as well. He is invited to be open to what Jesus is saying about his past, present and future.
A person who is hearing-impaired, touched by Jesus lets go of being confined by the defining name, “Deaf man, deaf woman, deaf child”. This “person-who-was-deaf ” now is newly named and he is renamed and is called to live that “redeemed” identity. As long as this man defines himself by his being deaf he was injuring himself. None of us is defined by an easy adjective. He, along with the others, is told not to say anything about Jesus’ identity, but it seems this man and the others didn’t listen and spoke well of the Man who had done these things well. If this man really heard who Jesus had told him he was, then he could not have kept silent any more. If he continued listening to the “old” voices then he kept quiet according to his “old” definition. We are primarily who God has said we are, in Christ and we take time to hear it over and over again. In prayer, in the Sacraments, we are invited to be “open” to our true selves and name.
“Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for You, o Lord my God. My soul is thirsty for God, the living God.” Ps. 43, 2-3
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