Fr Jim said to say he is sorry that he got this to me late but to remind you that he is now 80. I actually think it is because he has really not retired. I would say he is just as busy being one of those sheep-smelly pastors as he has always been. But then to, he is 80 and being a pastor.
•Isaiah 35:4-7 • James 2:1-5 • Mark 7:31-37•
Weekly Scripture Readings:23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
One day our neighbor in Anaconda came home from work on the smelter. He walked into the kitchen. His wife’s back was to him and she was busy at the stove. He asked, “what smells so good?” He moved closer and asked again, “what smells so good?” The third time he stood right next to her and asked, “what’s for dinner tonight?” She turned and said to him, “I told you twice. I am cooking liver, fried onions and skillet potatoes!!”
I presume that since early in our evolution some humans lacked the ability to hear. Those born without that ability face an enormous challenge. For them speaking is ordinarily impossible.
Some suffer the loss of hearing because of disease or accident. I have relatives and friends with severe hearing loss. The inability to hear leads to isolation from the community. Social isolation is very painful.
Today those with impaired hearing are more fortunate than those of earlier centuries. Gradually the means to restore hearing have been improved. Now with surgery, implants or hi-tech hearing aides, full or partial hearing is restored to many.
Hearing isn’t just a physical act. We hear a lot of things and don’t really listen to them. Maybe you remember your mother asking you the rhetorical question, “did you hear what I said?” She knew full well that you heard and there was no point in pretending otherwise. It was your mother’s way of reminding you to go do whatever she had asked you to do.
The Hebrew prophets used the image of deafness as a metaphor to confront ttheir people for their lack of response to God’s faithful and merciful love. We heard Isaiah do that today. Perhaps Mark did the same. Consider that as we examine this story from his gospel.
Jesus and his companions were returning from “Tyre and making their way through the district known as the Decapolis.” This was gentile and Hellenistic territory. By mentioning that small detail Mark tells us “the new reality” announced by Jesus was not only for Jews. It is all inclusive — for everyone, no exceptions!!
“Some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk.” Perhaps he could not hear the inclusive message of Jesus. Most likely those people were relatives, friends or neighbors of the unfortunate man. Jesus treated the man with tender kindness. To avoid embarrassing the man further, Jesus took him away from the crowd, said “be opened!” The man heard and spoke plainly.
If the story is metaphorical, then perhaps Mark includes it in his gospel to challenge his own community. Probably there were some of his peers who, because of the impact of the Roman War and their growing separation from the Jewish community, had become deaf to the gospel.
That suggests what this story may be saying to us in the 21st century.
Before you heard the gospel, someone brought you or introduced you to Jesus. I presume you heard and have accepted the gospel. However in this “Secular Age” it is easy to become deaf to Gods presence in others, in self and in the world.
Scientists tell us human-caused “climate change” is occurring. The voices of those who deny it can deafen us to the reality. Innocent children are killed or live in misery as the militarization of our nation wastes our natural resources. The rhetoric and P.R. of the military-industrial complex can deafen us to their needs, to God’s saving action in our lives and world.
Our neighbor in Anaconda kept asking, “what’s for dinner?” He could not hear his wife’s response! Are you open to that Gracious Mystery we name God? Are you able to hear Christ and the implications of “God’s new reality” straining to emerge among us?