Hearing and Witnessing the Truth

The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on September 10, the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

Years ago, a book was published with the title That Man is You. The point being made by this title was this: that we see in the various persons portrayed in the sacred Scriptures a mirror or reflection of ourselves.

So, in light of today's Gospel scene just proclaimed in our hearing, each of us is that deaf man who had a speech impediment. Is this, though, how we see ourselves? We could understandably ask: "How am I deaf? How am I unable to speak?" Do we beg Jesus to come and lay His hand on us, so that we might be cured? In other words, how does this healing action of Jesus apply to each of us?

Although many of us may not be physically deaf or unable to speak, each of us is often not hearing attentively God's Word and, therefore, not speaking or proclaiming that Word effectively by our witness. So, we do need Jesus to come and lay His healing hand on us. Let us, with sincere hearts, beg Jesus during this celebration of His Dying and Rising to heal us, to cure us, so that we will hear attentively His saving Word and proclaim that Word effectively by our daily witness. The Lord Jesus will indeed touch us and heal us if only we allow Him to come to us!

Our Blessed Lord Jesus desires that we no longer be deaf to His saving Word. If we let Him, He will take us off by Himself away from the crowd, that is, from whatever distracts us. In that way, we will have time to listen and to reflect. This happens when we make time to pray over the Scriptures and to do some spiritual reading. For example, how many of us have used the Catechism of the Catholic Church for our spiritual reading, taking, for example, Part Four, which focuses on Christian Prayer? Not only are numerous books available, but so are enriching reflections to be found online, for example, the addresses of Pope Benedict XVI. Participating in parish-sponsored formation-in-faith programs, like a Bible study or book discussion group, is yet another way to listen to Christ speaking to our minds and hearts. A day of recollection or a weekend retreat can be another occasion when Jesus takes us off by Himself so that we listen in a new way. In each of these times, that is, in prayer, in spiritual reading, in parish programs, in retreat-like days, the Lord is saying to us: "Be opened" to the truth of My Words and to the love of My Heart! Spiritual deafness disappears and a new way of listening attentively becomes real.

Once we hear attentively God's Word, we are then better enabled to speak that Word effectively, to proclaim that Word with enthusiasm, above all, by the witness of our daily lives. Yes, we speak when we witness. Sometimes, our witness takes the form of words; always, our witness takes the form of example, that is, of how we live. Can others recognize us as genuine disciples of the Lord? This means that we are called daily to evangelize. "By evangelizing, the Church seeks to bring about in all Catholics such an enthusiasm for their faith that, in living their faith in Jesus and strengthened by the sacraments, especially the celebration of the Eucharist, they freely share that faith with others to transform the world" (cf. Go and Make Disciples, A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States, 1990).

Included in this witness of evangelization, then, is how we engage others in conversation and discussion, especially regarding the issues effecting moral living in this country. To do this reasonably, politely, effectively, we must know what the Church teaches and why she teaches what she teaches. This is imperative in our efforts to transform the culture, which endorses abortion, physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex marriages.

There are cogent and convincing reasons why the Church sees these issues as opposed to the Natural Law and to the Truth of God's Word. Many more people would be persuaded to evaluate these issues in a new and life-giving way if only we, disciples of the Lord and members of His Church, would speak clearly and effectively. The present culture of death can be changed and transformed, if only the Light of Truth and the Power of Love could penetrate the darkness, dissolve the lack of understanding, and facilitate a new obedience to the Word of Truth and Life. We must be the instruments of that Word, yes, by our involvement and, above all, by the witness of our daily living.

When we allow Jesus to cure our spiritual deafness, so that we can hear attentively the Word, when we allow Jesus to restore to us the ability to speak in His Name, to proclaim the Truth effectively, above all, by the witness of our daily living, then we shall be His instruments in transforming the culture and in restoring a civilization of life and love. Then, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us in today's first reading, "streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water." Yes, then and only then, will the transformation God so desires and wills become a dawning reality in our world. Amen.

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