Be Opened!

September 6, 2015 | HNMWebmaster | Blessings, Commitment, Faith, Father Salvador, Homilies, Ordinary Time, St. Mark

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 6, 2015 – Year B

Readings: Is 35:4-7a / Psalm 146 / Jas 2:1-5 / Mk 7:31-37
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor

A story is told about a man who, after the Mass, asked his priest to pray for his hearing. Remembering what Jesus did, he laid his hand on the man and prayed for his hearing. The following day, he saw the same man in the church and asked, “So, how’s your hearing?” And the man said, “I don’t know; it’s not until Friday.” That’s not the kind of hearing that’s being referred to by St. Mark in the Gospel, but no prayers are wasted. Prayer is prayer.

Every time I read today’s gospel, I am reminded of a song from the Broadway musical, “The Music Man” that was popularized by The Beatles. It is entitled “’’Til There Was You” and part of it runs this way: “There are bells on the hill but I never heard them ringing. No, I never heard them at all, ‘til there was you.”

These words or something similar may have been said or at least in the mind of the deaf man in the gospel after our Lord cured him of his deafness. For all of us gathered here, I believe you can hear me. You can also hear the wonderful voices of the little children around us. For the parents of these children, I love their voices. If they want to cry, let them cry. If they want to shout, let them shout. They are just being themselves. They are the future of our church. The angels and the saints are all rejoicing that they are worshiping with us. They may not be able to understand what I’m saying. Many adults do not understand what I’m saying because of my accent. But at least you can hear my voice and all the other sounds around us.

No matter how hard we try, we can only partially understand the world of those who don’t have the sense of hearing. We can’t grasp that they are unable to hear the voices of their family, their children, their parents, or their friends. They can’t listen to the music, the chirping of the birds and all the sounds of animals and nature. They can’t hear the sound of an alarm clock in the morning, an alarm that warns them of impending danger, or many other sounds that we take for granted. What the Lord has given to the deaf man is not just a sense of hearing but a whole new world.

A few years ago I was called to give the last sacrament to a man in a coma at Norfolk General Hospital. When I got there, his wife told me that she and her husband both grew up in the Philippines but they had been living in the United States for more than 40 years. However, when her husband had a stroke, he could no longer speak nor understand English. So she asked if I could say my prayers in Filipino. I did. I don’t even need the Book to pray in my first language.

A week after that, I went back to Norfolk General to visit a parishioner and I saw that same man sitting in his hospital bed eating a hot bowl of soup. So, I said hello to him and his wife, and speaking in Filipino language, he thanked me for giving him the sacrament. He even remembered some of the prayers I said. As to how a man in a coma could hear my voice and even remember what I said is still a mystery to me. However, this particular experience made me understand better why during our priestly formation in the seminary we were reminded over and over again that the sense of hearing is the last of our five senses to go when a person is on his or her deathbed.

Our ability to hear is indeed one of the greatest gifts that God has given us. For the Lord Jesus to make the deaf hear is a type of miracle that only those who have lost the sense of hearing can probably fully appreciate. But there is an even better and bigger miracle that our Lord has done and that is to cure the people of their spiritual deafness.

In chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them when he says you shall indeed hear but not understand.  The fact that we are all here inside the sanctuary of Holy Name of Mary at this very moment goes to show that our spiritual ears are in good shape but needs to be nourished, nurtured and taken care of. We are living in the digital age where all sorts of information is available to us; at the touch of a button, a mouse, a keyboard or a screen. And many groups are claiming that they have the answers to our questions and problems. But do they?

Our church has been around for 2000 years. In spite of all the ups and downs and being shaken by all sorts of problems, we are getting stronger, with more than 1.2 billion members all over the world making our spiritual journey in the 21st century. Together, we continue to listen to the voice of the Lord Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life.

Let us ask our Lord, whom we will receive as body, blood, soul and divinity in Holy Communion in a few minutes, that we may always remember the words he said in today’s gospel, “Ephphatha!” “Be Open!” so that our spiritual ears may always be ready to listen and to understand his living words.