Sunday, September 9, 2012 by Food for Thought
FirstReading: Is 35:4-7a
Psalm: Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
SecondReading: Jas 2:1-5
Gospel: Mk 7:31-37
Deafness is one of the worst handicaps that a person can have. One of the tragic aspects of deafness is that it arouses little sympathy in others. We usually reach out with great compassion to the blind and go out of our way to help them. But we often get annoyed or even make fun of people who are hard of hearing.
In today’s Gospel reading Mark tells the story in unusual detail. We read not merely of Jesus touching and speaking to the deaf-mute, but touching the affected parts – the ears and the tongue of the deaf-mute using saliva as a means of the healing. This more elaborate method of healing instead of just a word of command is more appropriate for a deaf man. The use of saliva for healing was quite common in ancient times. The words “Be opened” were probably the first words the
deaf-mute ever heard.
In this story we can see the compassionate heart of Jesus, not only in the physical healing of the deaf-mute, but also in expressing his loveand care by touching, and using the symbol that the person can understand. For the sick person, he was the focus of the love and attention of Jesus at that moment.
Jesus continues to heal people today. He gives the power of healing to the Church, especially through the Sacrament of the Sick, sometimes called the Sacrament of Healing, or the Anointing of the Sick. Unfortunately, this Sacrament has been misunderstood and wrongly named in the past. It is popularly known as “Extreme Unction” or “The Last Sacrament,” which focuses on the secondary purpose of the Sacrament, which is to prepare a person for death if that is God’s will at the time. The Sacrament prepares him to go in peace and joy to the Father in the company of Jesus. But because of the misunderstanding, people often have a negative attitude toward the Sacrament. They wait until the very last dying moment of the sick person before they frantically
look for a priest. And oftentimes it is too late.
It is important to remember that the primary purpose of the Sacrament is to restore health of body and spirit to the sick person. Jesus in today’s Gospel uses saliva as the healing agent. The Church uses oil, which is believed to have healing and strengthening quality as the material for the Sacrament.
Aside from healing through the Sacrament of the Sick, Christ today heals through the Church in a number of other ways. A great number of hospitals are Church related. God heals through the skills and caring actions of physicians and nurses. That’s why a number of people would go to the priest to receive the Sacrament of Healing before going for a major operation.
More important, there is a spiritual side to today’s Gospel reading – the healing of the soul. Aside from the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a number of people who were depressed, and overburdened with life’s problem have come to the parish for counseling and spiritual direction.
Usually after some talks and guidance in prayer, they would go out a changed person – experiencing the peace and the freedom promised by Jesus. They become stronger and hopeful. They go back a happy person.
When we are deaf to God’s word, we become like those unfortunate who are physically deaf: we are immersed in God’s world, yet we understand little of what is going on. We see people being born and people dying, we see a lot of pain and heartaches, and we see everywhere violence and strife, disappointment and failure, broken homes and broken live – and we do not know why.
We also see some people radiantly happy, some beautiful and productive lives, some people gracefully aging in eager anticipation of somethingbeyond death – and we do not see why. Yes indeed spiritual deafness is a great misfortune!
The saving action of Jesus makes a person an effective Christian: a believer and apostle. We cannot be effective apostle to others; we cannot speak if we are dumb. We have nothing to speak about if we are deaf, for we have heard nothing, we have no message to pass on to them. And Jesus gives us the power to speak to witness to that message by our lives.
Each Sunday liturgy is a reliving of the deaf-mute’s experience. We are made to hear the word of God and to respond to it through confession of faith.