Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 24 – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Be Open to Hear the Word of God

We all know that Jesus performed many healings in his public ministry, most of which were not recorded anywhere. Why then, among all these, did St. Mark choose to tell us about the healing of the deaf and mute man in the Gospel today? For one thing, the Greek word for “mute” is used in only two places in all of Scripture, in the Gospel and in our first reading from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah tells us that when the Messiah comes he will restore sight to the blind, restore hearing to the deaf, and the “mute” will sing. Mark is clearly telling us that Jesus fulfills this passage and is the Messiah.

However, both St. Mark and the early Church often made use of this healing for another reason. It is a symbolic model of the process of evangelization, or spreading the “good news” about Jesus. The apostles heard the Word of God and then went out and spoke about it to everyone. These people heard the apostles preaching and they in turn went and spoke about it to all their friends. Eventually the good news reached the entire world.

Today, however, we are in danger of losing the faith that the apostles gave their lives to hand on. Many people are abandoning the faith. For this reason, John Paul II called us to what he termed a “New Evangelization.” We’ve got to start this process of hearing and speaking all over again. When we hear the term “New Evangelization” we might immediately think about going out and speaking more about the faith. This is backward. The reason we are not speaking the Word of God well is because we are not hearing it well.

It is common that when a man goes deaf he will ultimately develop a speech impediment because he can’t hear. The Church is suffering from a sort of spiritual speech impediment and the cure can only come from learning the hear again. Jesus first heals the man’s hearing and then frees his tongue. The same will be true for the New Evangelization. The Good News is that God so loved the world that he sent his only son that we might have life. That’s really great news, but most of us are not “hearing” it and hence are not sharing it.

In order to heal the deaf and mute man in the Gospel, Jesus had to take him away from the crowd. Maybe God is calling you to come away, to leave what is comfortable so that he can help you to hear the Good News. Jesus could have just willed that the man be healed, but instead he touched him. He put his fingers in his ears and spit on his tongue. He then spoke a seemingly magic word…ephphatha. It means “be open” in Jesus’ native Aramaic. Jesus wants to touch each of us as well and allow us to hear clearly so that we may speak clearly. What next step is God asking you to take? Whatever it is, hear Jesus saying ephphatha…that is…be open.

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