Homily — 23rd Sunday OT B 9/6/9

Homily — 23rd Sunday OT B 9/6/9

About a month ago I was visiting an old high school friend of mine, who is now married with two young children and living in the woods of Western Coventry.

He told me about how one day his kids were swimming in a pond at a day camp near his house; about 30 kids or so were in the water, when all of a sudden the life guard got out of his life guard chair, walked up to shore of the beach, and said in a calm, loud voice “All right boys and girls, everyone please swim over to this side of the pond right now, let’s go!”

All the kids on the right side of the pond swam over to the left side of the pond and kept on playing and swimming.

What the kids didn’t know was that the lifeguard had seen a big snapping turtle way out beyond the buoys, heading towards the right side of the shore. The turtle after a few minutes eventually swam off in another direction, and the kids went back to swimming on the right side of the pond, totally clueless as to what just happened.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a deaf man with a speech impediment.

Through the gift of speech, the lifeguard was able to lead those children away from danger.

And through the gift of hearing, the children were able to hear the lifeguard and swim to safety.

But the Church also sees in this miraculous healing a symbol of how Jesus heals the spiritual deafness and spiritual speech impediment every human being is born into this fallen world with.

From ancient times up unto our present day, whenever children or adults are baptized, what’s called the Ephphatha Rite is performed as part of the Baptism Ritual: the Priest touches the ears and the mouth of the baby or adult, just like Jesus touched the ears and mouth of the deaf man, and prays “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the mute speak, may he open your ears to receive His word and your mouth to proclaim His faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father”.

The grace of Baptism enables us to hear the voice of Jesus speaking to us, it enables us to speak without any impediments the saving Word of God to others.

But even after Baptism, we can grow deaf to the voice of God, and forget how to speak the heavenly language of love and truth, if we are not careful.

Lukewarmness in our prayer life and even small venial sins can create a kind of spiritual wax build up that will make it harder for us to hear Jesus speaking to us.

We need to get out the Q-Tip so to speak, clean out that dirty wax by a daily regimen of prayer. Notice how before Jesus heals the deaf man, the Gospel says Jesus first took (the man) off by himself away from the crowd. If we want to hear Jesus speak to us, we need to spend time each day alone with Him in prayer and spiritual reading.

And then, if we’ve done major damage to our eardrums by listening and giving into the lies of the devil, we’ll need to get spiritual ear surgery by making a good confession.

He who has ears, let him hear says the Lord.

And once we hear God speaking loud and clear, o r tongue will be loosened and we will be then able to speak clearly as well.

One spiritual author says this about how a follower of Christ is to speak. He says “We Christians cannot remain dumb when we must speak of God and transmit his message openly: Parents (must speak) to their children, teaching them their prayers and the basics of their faith from their infancy; a friend (must speak) to his friend (about Christ), when the opportune moment presents itself . . . .a . . . .worker (should speak) to his colleagues, offering them, by word and example, a cheerful model to imitate . . . . “

“ . . . . there are even moments in which it would be unnatural for a good Christian not to (speak) something supernatural: (as on the occasion of ) the death of a loved one (or) a visit to a sick person.”

And this author concludes by reminding us of our obligation to speak out in defense of the moral and doctrinal teachings of our faith when these teachings are belittled, misunderstood, or denied.

As we come before Jesus in the Eucharist today, may He touch us and say to us “Ephphatha! Be opened!”

Be opened and hear me saying to you how much I love you;

Be opened and hear me saying to you how much I have forgiven you;

Be opened and hear my voice, gently leading you away from harmful and sinful things, and towards good and virtuous things.

Be opened, and speak with your mouth my words of truth and love to others;

Be opened, my beloved, and then see how your words and actions will open the ears and mouths of the deaf and dumb in your midst.

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