Do You Have a Deaf Ear?
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 5, 2021
“…and people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.”
A joke I sometimes use in wedding homilies is that it always amazes me how soon after a couple is newly married that one of them will go deaf in one ear! This affliction comes and goes, and those times when one ear or the other doesn’t work are usually when a spouse is trying to get the other’s attention and they would rather not hear it! Yet, all joking aside, there can be an element of truth to this. Often too, we have selective hearing when it comes to the Lord speaking to us.
Jesus heals a deaf man with a speech impediment in this Sunday’s gospel (Mark 7:31-37). This particular healing was quite unusual. Mark goes into great detail as he describes how Jesus heals this man: first by spitting on his tongue; then by placing his fingers in his ears; finally by raising his eyes and groaning! Can you picture this? At times, of course, Jesus merely gives a word to heal someone, or even heals simply by being touched! Why the difference this time?
Jesus uses many and varied ways to touch and heal us. He uses a different technique for each individual and we cannot put him in a box. The Holy Spirit has so many different approaches in our lives (some more dramatic than others, as this scripture testifies to) and the reason for this is so that we can grow and learn as much as possible in the limited time we have here on earth.
When it comes to hearing, or seeing, or understanding, like my newly married friend I joked about, we human beings can be quite selective in what we allow our senses to take in. This can be particularly true when God takes the initiative in our lives and is trying to tell us something! If we are off-track somehow, wouldn’t God try to warn and correct us? How would he normally do this?
The Lord will often try one approach after another to get our attention. Usually he will begin by appealing to our conscience, but if this is not formed correctly, we might not get the warning. He may speak through a scripture that comes to mind or one we hear at Mass on Sunday, but if we are not listening well, we might miss it. He will also try speaking through Church teaching and the catechism, but we may be resistant to this also. We can also hear him through coincidences, circumstances, other people, employers, passersby and other seemingly chance coincidences and encounters that are actually God in action, if only we have the ears to hear. But, of course, hearing God is always a risk. The risk we take is that we may have to change something or convert in some area. Of course, we can also turn a deaf ear to God’s many proposals, but that is one risk no one should want to take.