The Highest Purpose of our Ears and Mouths, 5th Friday (II), February 9, 2018

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
February 9, 2018
1 Kings 11:29-32.12:19, Ps 81, Mk 7:31-37

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points guided today’s homily: 

  • In today’s Gospel we glimpse the awe of those who witnessed Jesus’ miracles and works live. Jesus, in the scene we encounter today, had already made their hearts burn with his preaching. They had seen him cast out demons, cure many who were sick, feed a multitude with few pieces of bread and fish, walk on water and even raise a young boy and a young girl from the dead. On the force of this reputation, several true friends brought a man who was deaf and mute to Jesus, begging him to lay hands on him. They were not to be let down. The Lord put his finger into the man’s ears, touched his tongue with spit, looked up to heaven, sighed, and cried out in Aramaic, “Be opened!” and the miracle was worked. Amazement seized them all. Even though Jesus told them not to say anything about the miracle, they couldn’t help themselves. They were astounded beyond measure and cried out “He has done all things well!”
  • “He has done all things well!” This line of joyful amazement in front of Jesus should be the Christian motto. “Jesus has done all things well!” In his preaching, in his miracles, especially in his salvific passion, death and resurrection, each of us should cry out with the residents of the Decapolis that the Lord has indeed hit a homerun on every swing. Everything He does flows from His infinite wisdom. He really does know what is best for us — in terms of our eternal salvation — and carries it out. And his work hasn’t stopped. He continues to listen to us in prayer. He continues to grant countless miracles through the intercession of saints. He continues to feed us with the sacrament of his body and blood. He has done, and continues to do, all things well. This motto, which really is the characteristically-Christian attitude, is being challenged in many segments of our culture today. This is really nothing new. The first pagans and Jewish leaders thought Jesus was a colossal failure, a criminal executed shamelessly on the electric chair of his day, a so-called king who died crowned not with gold but with thorns. Little did they know what would happen on Easter Sunday. Little could they fathom what the small band of fishermen, tax-collectors and other relative nobodies would be do in his name throughout the globe. Today many in our culture treat the Lord and the Church he founded as “behind the times,” not “with it.” To them it is a modern irrelevancy. They will be in for a surprise one day, too. But as our society has been becoming less Christian, more of these false ideas have been invading the minds of believers, and this is a much greater concern. I wonder if Jesus were here today and were to start to ask us whether we think he did all things well, how we would respond. In general, of course, I think all of us, as his disciples, would want to respond that, yes, we do believe that He is the Lord and therefore wisely knows what he’s doing and does everything well; either He is God and does everything perfectly out of love for us, or he makes mistakes and is therefore cannot be God. But with regard to certainly controversial issues, I wonder sometimes whether Catholics today really believe that he has done all things well and are willing to praise him like the residents of the Decapolis. A few questions the Lord could ask: If you really believe that I have done all things well, do you come to me with trust in the Sacrament I established to forgive your sins? Do you believe that I did well in making marriage the indissoluble union between one man and one woman until death, calling you back to God’s plan for marriage in the beginning? Do you believe that I knew what I was doing when I ordained only men to be my apostles and priests? Do you believe that I did well in establishing the Church as I did, on sinful men? Questions like these are important ones for us to ask, because sometimes we can begin to allow the devil to sow seeds of doubt as to whether Jesus knows what he’s doing when he allows us or those we love to suffer, or when there are issues in our parish, Diocese or universal Church, or when someone in a position of religious authority makes a decision with which we don’t agree, etc.
  • Focusing on the miracle the Lord works today, we can ponder something important in our life of faith to help us appreciate what the Lord seeks to do well through us but requires our cooperation. The Lord opens up the deaf-mute’s ears and tongue so that he could fully communicate. What a gift that is! The same Lord who did that for him — in a way that we might find a little gross, putting his fingers in his ear and spitting and touching his tongue, but was porto-sacramental — did it for us spiritually through a minister on the day of our baptism. He stuck his finger into our ear and touched our tongue and prayed, “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.” This points to two great truths: the most important reason why we were given ears by God was so that we might hear his word; and the most fundamental reason we were given a mouth was so that we might proclaim our faith to his glory. God wants to speak to us and have us speak of our faith in him to others. There are of course other purposes to these faculties, but these are priorities. First, God wants us to hear his voice, to listen to Jesus as he said in the Transfiguration, to obey (ob-audire), which means to listen attentively as words to be done. In today’s Responsorial Psalm, he says, “I am the Lord, your God. Hear my voice!” Often we think prayer is our talking to God, but God wants us to grasp that the first and most important part of prayer, the whole purpose of our outer and inner ears, is to say with sincerity, like young Samuel, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Similarly God has opened our tongues to do many things including speak to him audibly. But the fundamental purpose of our speech is so that we might proclaim our faith to his praise and glory. And so we need to ask ourselves today how assiduously we’re listening to the Lord’s voice and how ardently we’re speaking of him, how he does all things well, how he loves us, what he seeks to do in us.
  • In today’s reading we see the consequences that occur when we don’t listen to God well. Yesterday in the first reading, we heard about the fall of Solomon into corruption. At 18 he had pleased God by asking for “an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong” and God was so pleased that he gave him, he said, “a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you. In addition, I give you what you have not asked for, such riches and glory that among kings there is not your like.” But after he used those gifts for God’s glory, after he wrote so many great spiritual books, after he dazzled the Queen of Sheba and so many others, his wise and understanding heart because lustful, then corrupt, and finally idolatrous, building temples to, and adoring, the pagan gods of some of his 700 wives and 300 concubines. For this reason God said to him, as we heard yesterday, “Since… you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I enjoined on you, I will deprive you of the kingdom and give it to your servant. I will not do this during your lifetime, however, for the sake of your father David; it is your son whom I will deprive. Nor will I take away the whole kingdom. I will leave your son one tribe for the sake of my servant David and of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.” And that is what is fulfilled in today’s reading. The prophet Ahijah from Shilo met Jeroboam, who was in charge of the enormous public works of Solomon and tore his new cloak, handing Jeroboam 10 of the 12 pieces, and saying, “Take ten pieces for yourself; the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will tear away the kingdom from Solomon’s grasp and will give you ten of the tribes. One tribe shall remain to him for the sake of David my servant, and of Jerusalem, the city I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel.’” Jeroboam became king of the north, Israel, whereas Rehoboam, Solomon’s son from a pagan Ammonite wive, ruled in Judah. Solomon had stopped listening to the Lord’s voice. He had stopped speaking about him with faith. And this is what happened as a direct result of giving into sin — which always divides — rather than following the Lord who seeks to unite us with him and with each other. Solomon’s fall is a reminder to us never to lose our guard but instead to climb uphill, seeking to listen to God ever more and to proclaim our faith with ever greater ardor.
  • Today as we celebrate this Mass, we ask the Lord to renew in us the graces of our baptism, hear and obey the saving word he proclaims to us in the Gospel, to hear it accurately, to treasure it, and to pass it on with great courage and holy pride  as a lifeline to the whole world. Jesus has done all things well, and he wants to continue doing things well through us. And his greatest ongoing work is what we now do in his memory. May we imitate those in the Decapolis in not being able to restrain ourselves from speaking about what he does here.

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 1 KGS 11:29-32; 12:19

Jeroboam left Jerusalem,
and the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met him on the road.
The two were alone in the area,
and the prophet was wearing a new cloak.
Ahijah took off his new cloak,
tore it into twelve pieces, and said to Jeroboam:
“Take ten pieces for yourself;
the LORD, the God of Israel, says:
‘I will tear away the kingdom from Solomon’s grasp
and will give you ten of the tribes.
One tribe shall remain to him for the sake of David my servant,
and of Jerusalem,
the city I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel.’”
Israel went into rebellion against David’s house to this day.

Responsorial Psalm PS 81:10-11AB, 12-13, 14-15

R. (11a and 9a) I am the Lord, your God: hear my voice.
“There shall be no strange god among you
nor shall you worship any alien god.
I, the LORD, am your God
who led you forth from the land of Egypt.”
R. I am the Lord, your God: hear my voice.
“My people heard not my voice,
and Israel obeyed me not;
So I gave them up to the hardness of their hearts;
they walked according to their own counsels.”
R. I am the Lord, your God: hear my voice.
“If only my people would hear me,
and Israel walk in my ways,
Quickly would I humble their enemies;
against their foes I would turn my hand.”
R. I am the Lord, your God: hear my voice.

Alleluia SEE ACTS 16:14B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Open our hearts, O Lord,
to listen to the words of your Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 7:31-37

Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”