A few years ago, there was a lake which usually froze over in the winter. It was a great place to ice skate and very safe as long as the weather remained cold. Normally parents began to worry about the lake only after the middle of March because the lake was here in the Mid West where winter lasts till, like May, sometimes. Anyway, this one winter was quite warm (for the Mid West) and little pools of water often appeared in the lake at the end of a day, though they froze again over night. The police warned everyone who lived near the lake to be careful because the ice might be very thin in some places. Parents in turn warned their children, who, like kids often do, skillfully tuned out everything their parents said. Well, one week in late February there was a fierce cold spell and the Lake seemed to have returned to its old, icy self. The kids all wanted to skate. Their teachers told them not to. Their parents told them not to. The kids listened and nodded dutifully. Then they asked themselves, “How could there be thin ice when it is so cold?” Most of the kids, more because of fear of being punished then fear of the lake, stood on the shore and watched as five of them, three boys and two girls, shouting that the others were “chicken,” skated all around the lake and had a grand old time. Then all five of them were for just a moment in the same place and, well…you know what happened. There was a sound like someone had fired a gun. The ice cracked all around them and they were suddenly on an island of ice in the middle of the lake, at least twenty feet from any other ice – which was still cracking and breaking up. The little ice island looked like it was going to sink. Then one little boy, the worst chicken of them all because he was smart, ran into a house and called 911. In ten minutes a police helicopter arrived and lifted the five kids off the ice island. We can all image what the cops said to them. And their parents. And how long they were grounded. [story from Andrew Greeley]
Our Scriptures last week taught us that in order to have life, we must be willing to have God’s Word, God’s will, and God’s commandments take root in our hearts. And in doing this, not only do we have life for ourselves, but we also reflect the greatness and glory of God to those around us. But in order to do this we first need to be open and to listen.
Yet we know that listening can be tough. Sometimes, like the scribes and Pharisees, we can be too caught up in our own stuff, our own priorities, our own desires. Sometimes we’re distracted by the noise and the chaos of the world around us. Sometimes we choose not to listen. All this can make us deaf to God’s Word, to God’s will, to God’s commandments, to the inspired teachings of God’s Church. We can be deaf to the call to grow in holiness and conversion, deaf to the cries of those in need of justice and mercy, deaf to the invitation to share in the very life of our Triune God. And with all that we are unable, then, to respond to God and unable to speak the Good News of salvation.
In our Gospel today we hear that people bring to Him a man who was deaf and with a speech impediment—symbolic of the spiritual deafness that we all might face sometimes. Jesus takes him to a different place, away from the chaos of the crowd, and He does this wild stuff like putting His finger in the guy’s ear and putting spit on the guy’s tongue. (This seems kind of gross, of course, but that was actually common practice for healers back then.) He doesn’t heal the man in some clean and nice way. There’s messiness involved. God is not afraid of a mess; He can heal us through the mess. Jesus did not heal this guy from a distance—He got in close, touching him, putting something of Himself into the guy.
Many years ago I was in a fifth grade classroom fielding questions and such. I’ll never forget one little dude who said, “Isn’t it unfair that back when Jesus was around He healed all these people and now He’s not around to do so? Isn’t it unfair?!?” You could hear in his voice that he was actually kind of upset about this. But of course Christ continues to want us to come to Him—and bring others to Him—to make us whole. And like with the man in the Gospel, He doesn’t heal us from afar. He’s given us His Body, the Church, and He’s given the Church the Sacraments—physical ways that He touches our lives with His grace. You know, a big thing with our Parish Ignition Nights in October is to have a special opportunity to come away from the everyday hubbub and allow Jesus to touch us with His Presence.
Last week I shared the image of the Church as a hospital for sinners. So if the Church is a hospital for sinners, we must be open to being “cured,” to being restored and renewed, to being healed of our deafness and our muteness and our blindness, which keep us apart from God and one another. We need to let the Divine Healer touch us and hear that heavenly cry, “Ephphatha!—that is, ‘Be opened!’”
©2017 St. Peters Catholic Church Huron Ohio.
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