Scripture: Lectionary for 23 Sunday,B. Isaiah 35:4-7. Psalm 146:7-8.8-9.9-10. James 2:1-5. Mark 7:31-37:
Listening is an art. We know that counselors, spiritual directors, and confessors are considered experienced at listening. If they are truly respected it comes about that they are good listeners. We, too, when we are present at the Liturgy of the Word are expected to be attentive listeners to that Word of God. Our spiritual lives depend
upon listening to a great extent. We can only carry out the word of God if we first are listening to it and then doing that word. Each Sunday gives us the opportunity to be good listeners.
Jesus heals a man who is deaf and unable to speak. Somehow the man yearned to be able to hear and to listen. His friends who bring him to Jesus have given him hope after years of silence. Did he know of the promised made by God to the people of Israel in the beautiful poetic reading of Isaiah that we hear today? We do not know, but we are told by Mark, a great follower and listener of the apostle Peter, that he knew Jesus was near and that there was a strong possibility of being healed. Jesus hears and listens to the man’s inward wishes and groans and by touching him on the ears and using saliva on his lips the man hears the words in the tongue of Jesus “Ephphatah!, that is “be opened.” He immediately is healed and starts to speak clearly.
It is a marvelous miracle that is recalled in the older Baptismal rite and now in the Gospel at least once in three years and maybe more often. Jesus uses his senses, his prayer, and his loving-compassion to enable him and us to truly be attentive to the words of the Gospel and the words and gestures in the Sacraments. We are called to be open and attentive.
We know that during the liturgy we are hearing the living word of God and when Jesus is speaking we are listening to the Word of God who was with God from eternity. (John 1:1-4). Often the Psalm contains the words listen when we are addressed and even when we ask God to listen to our prayer and our needs expressed in the psalms, hymns, and canticles.
In Eastern Liturgies the presider processes with the Book of Gospels while calling out or singing, “Be Attentive!” Those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours have an opening prayer about listening attentively. Then a Psalm is prayed or chanted.
We know that the most important prayer for our Jewish brothers and sisters is the Shema which involves the polite imperative to listen to God saying, “ Hear (Listen), O Israel, The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
Fr. Roland J. Faley has this great paragraph on listening to God’s word: All too often we hear God’s word but do not listen. Attention is lacking, and sometimes our will as well. The word takes no root within us. We are often addicted to sin in some form and remain obtuse to God’s will. At times the cry of human needs is deafening and we go on our way oblivious of an evident call. Yet God has been generous.
His voice is ever present in word, sacrament, church teaching, and Christian insight. He speaks to us in the eyes of the poor. Our deafness can be overcome in many ways. James today gives us a very practical example. Discrimination is un-Christian. Yet how often Christians fall prey to its designs. Cultivating persons of rank, showing preferential treatment, eliminating people of inferior status from our company on the basis of color, creed or ethnic background—all of this flies in the face of Christian belief. When God’s word is proclaimed, we so often hear but do not listen. Today’s liturgy reminds us that our deafness can be cured. Amen. (Footprints on the Mountain, page 588).
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.