23rd Sun [B] 2006

Fr. Charles Irvin

Isaiah 35:4-7; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37

Today’s Gospel reading presents us with a man born deaf whom Jesus heals. It was spectacular – and it was very puzzling. Here was someone born deaf and therefore unable to speak who was suddenly and miraculously cured … and then Jesus asks him and those around him not to talk about it!! Wasn’t that asking the impossible? Can you imagine being that deaf man and not talking about your miraculous cure? Why would Jesus make such a (let’s face it) strange request?

First of all, Jesus’ request wasn’t made out of false humility. And secondly, Jesus wanted folks to thank God for His gifts to them and to witness to God’s saving acts in our humanity. If Jesus stood for anything at all, it was to reveal God’s saving love and actions in our midst, in our human history, on our planet, in our humanity.

We humans have a tendency to seek out, be moved, and awed by things that are spectacular. Things need, it seems, to be totally awesome for us to accept them as reality. Bogus faith healers and visionaries, along with people who claim to have direct revelations from God are not modest in presenting their agendas to us. How many times have we heard that the Second Coming of Christ is going to happen in such-and-such a day? How many times have we been told that the end of the world is near? The media, however, does not present to us is what happened to all of those people when the healings don’t last and the visions and revelations proved to be false.

So I think Jesus’ request for silence was grounded on the fact that He wanted folks to pay attention to who He is and what He has to say rather than His spectacular miracles. And sure enough, didn’t all of those involved in that healing of the deaf man run out, broadcast it everywhere, and shout all over the place about what Jesus had done? But the real question is this: Did they change their lives, accept His teachings, and follow Him?

What Jesus wants of us is not to be awed by spectacular religion, but rather to be open to God’s word for us. It’s all about having eyes to see and ears to hear what God wants us to be doing. He doesn’t want us to be all caught up in spectacular miracles. That’s why when hanging upon His cross He refused to come down when taunted to do so.

So what do you hear when people are talking with you? What do you hear from the heart of your spouse, from the hearts of your children? I’m not talking about listening to them; I’m talking about hearing them. And I’m also talking about hearing what God has to say to us, for He speaks to us in Sacred Scripture, He speaks to us through others, and He speaks to us in a special way in His Church. The Mass is the privileged place where His word is proclaimed every day.

Pope John Paul II was a media personality. Whenever he went anywhere it was a media event. Crowds loved the spectacle. But after the show was over, did they accept his teachings? John Paul II continually reiterated what the Church has been teaching from its beginning and throughout it’s 2,000 years of history.

Here I want to list what I think are some of its most important teachings. I’m asking you to pay close attention to them:

1 – Human life has a transcendent origin and destiny.

2 – Human life is under God’s dominion and not under ours; we hold human life as God’s stewards – human life is not ours to dispose of as we wish.

3 – We have a mission that is God-given … and that mission cannot be accomplished on our own.

4 – Human society is built on the fundament of a man and a woman living in committed love for each other. They are coupled together with the willingness to accept children lovingly from God in order to accomplish His purposes in establishing His kingdom.

5 – Individuality, personal uniqueness, and our human rights are found in a community of lived out interdependence, not in the privacy of self-autonomy. Individualism is nothing but solipsism unless and until individuality is found in family interrelatedness.

6 – Human rights are endowed upon us by God. Human government does not grant them to us.

Any society that fails to recognize these fundamental principles is doomed to live in banal sensuality, crass materialism, and shallow self-centeredness; its members will wither and die in spiritual starvation.

The authors of our own Declaration of Independence believed that our nation should be God centered. The authors of our Declaration of Independence believed that we are, as human beings, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. Thomas Jefferson went on to write a statement appearing in the Northwest Ordinance and that is etched in stone on the front porticos and in the halls of many of our public buildings. Those Jeffersonian words are: “Religion, Morality and Knowledge being necessary for the good government and happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” It is a bold-faced lie to tell us that Thomas Jefferson wanted to keep religion out of our culture and away from our society.

Our nation’s founders along with Thomas Jefferson had ears to hear and acted on the belief that human life is to be God-centered. What do you hear? And what’s being heard in our society these days? Perhaps the man who was deaf 2,000 years ago was not the only one who needed a cure. For whom, after all, was that miracle of Jesus intended, for just that deaf man? For people back then? Or for us?

What Jesus wants of us is not to be awed by spectacular religion, but rather to be open to God’s word for us. It’s all about having eyes to see and ears to hear what God wants us to be doing.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”