Saturday, September 5, 2015

September 6, 2015: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time B

September 6, 2015: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Click to hear Audio Homily
What would you say your most memorable music concert was? I attended several concerts in my younger days. Among the most memorable ones was that grunge rock concert where I lost one of my shoes and almost lost my glasses when the crowd was pushing and shoving, and the tenor Pavarotti’s magnificent concert held in a giant stadium in Dallas. When we recall our own favorite music concerts, we can’t help but appreciate the gift of hearing that we received from God. It’s hard to imagine then, being born without the ability to hear. If we were a parent of such a child, would we not pray for a miracle!

Our Gospel today is Jesus encountering a deaf man who was brought to him by sympathetic towns’ people. Although many of Jesus’ healing miracles take place in full public view, here in contrast, Jesus takes the man off by himself. This detail suggests that Jesus intuitively understands the unique needs of each person. For some person it is important to have a private encounter, away from the stares of the crowd, so that Jesus can minister to their need one-on-one. After taking him aside, he puts his finger into the man’s ears, spits, touches his tongue, looks up to heaven, groans, and says to him, Ephphatha (be opened)! Jesus intuitively understands the unique needs of each person.

This one-on-one encounter with Jesus happened to me at a music concert when I was a junior in high school. A friend of mine who was in choir with me said that we needed to go hear a fantastic acapella group composed of six men who were coming to Waco TX.  In the packed auditorium, we listened to the group that sang beautifully without any instrumental accompaniment. There was a song that particularly touched me. The lyric was based on Matthew 11:28,

Come unto me, all ye that labor
And I will give you rest
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me
For I am meek and lowly in heart

And ye shall find rest unto your souls
Rest unto your souls, rest unto your souls
It's easy, for my burden is light

It was a moment of encounter with Jesus, personally inviting me to come to him and learn of him. I clasped my hand as in prayer and bowed my head with tears streaming down my eyes. I went to the concert as an atheist, and something in me was opened by the music. I was deaf to God’s voice prior to the concert, but Jesus touched the impaired ears of my soul to hear his voice again.

The greatest tragedy is not to be born deaf or mute, but to have ears and yet fail to hear; and to have a voice and yet fail to speak. Worse again is to have ears and refuse to hear; and to have mouth and refuse to speak. God designed human beings not only with the physical senses but also with marvelous spiritual capacities to see, hear, and relate to him. These interior faculties were disabled by original sin, causing a severe communication block between God and humanity. Jesus’ healings of people who are deaf, blind, and lame is a sign of his restoration of humanity to the fullness of life and of communion with our Creator. Now by the grace of Christ we are able to hear God’s voice in our hearts, sing his praises, and proclaim his mighty deeds (see Acts 2:11). “The glory of God is man fully alive” (St. Irenaeus).

We just celebrated the 18th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death this Saturday. All throughout her religious life, Jesus used her as an instrument to speak to the whole world about his thirst for love of them. “Let Jesus use you without consulting you,” she would say. And true to her words, she did not refuse Jesus to use her hands, her ears, and mouth to allow him to encounter one-on-one those who were deaf to God’s voice. In one of her writings, she instructed us about knowing Jesus’ love for us:

“Jesus wants me to tell you again, how much is the love He has for each one of you--beyond all that you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus--one to one--you and Jesus alone. Do you really know the living Jesus--not from books, but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? How can we last even one day living our life without hearing Jesus say “I love you”--impossible. Ask for this grace. He is longing to give it. Never give up this daily intimate contact with Jesus as a real living person.” 

-Fr. Paul Yi