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Individual and cultural deafness

“Ephphatha!” proclaimed the Lord—“Be opened!”

We heard this proclamation in the Gospel this Sunday (Mk 7:34) as Jesus healed a man who was deaf and mute.  All who witnessed this healing proclaimed God’s power. “He has done all things well.  He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mk 7:37).

Those who knew the Scripture also knew that Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Here is your God … he comes to save you,” the prophet declared, “then will … the ears of the deaf be cleared; then the tongue of the mute will sing” (Is 35: 4, 5). The healing the Lord gives demonstrates to us that he is truly God and truly man—the savior of the world.

Jesus healed by actions.  He put his fingers in the ear of the deaf man, and prayed as he did so, to remind us of the presence of the Trinity.  The Old Testament speaks often of the “finger of God” to prefigure the Holy Spirit.  By evoking the phrase, and looking upward to God the Father in heaven, Jesus makes clear that all three persons of the Trinity are present in the healing of the deaf and mute man.

Jesus healed because people had trust enough to ask—they brought the deaf mute man to him because of their faith in Him.  For us the act of faith begins a road to a life lived fully in the Trinity.

Pope Benedict has called for a “Year of Faith” starting this Oct. 11.  He is inviting us to renew and deepen our faith in Jesus and in his Church.  He is calling us to place our trust and confidence in Jesus and the promises given to us in the Gospel.

Faith is a gift given to us at baptism along with hope and charity.  Faith is a theological virtue—it transforms into an identity rooted in God’s identity.  Faith begins with the Father’s initiative in us. We respond by opening our hearts and minds to the truth given to us by Jesus and by the Church.

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Faith can lie dormant in our souls if we do not pray for a deeper trust and confidence in Jesus.

Like the man in another Gospel story, we can cry out to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief!”(Mk 9:24).  Let us pray this week for a deeper faith.

Sunday’s Gospel calls us to examine our lives and our hearts.  We can be deaf to hearing the word of God and the teachings of the Church.  A lack of catechesis, a resistance to a teaching, a hardness of heart, spiritual pride, or the influence of secular culture can render us deaf to the truth.  But Jesus can heal our deafness—he can set us free to the truth proclaimed by the Church and the Gospel.

We should ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we may be deaf to Jesus or a teaching of the Church.  Praying to the Holy Spirit for knowledge, understanding and wisdom is important each day.  Listening to the Holy Spirit regarding where we are called to conversion is essential.  We must desire to seek the truth and conform our lives to the Gospel.

Finally, these readings remind us of our obligation to evangelize.  Each of us is given opportunities within our family and neighborhoods, our society to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

Our evangelization should be not only personal, but cultural.  We should evangelize by living our faith proudly in the public square—and by working toward healing our areas of cultural deafness.  America is deaf to the scourge of abortion, of poverty, of divorce. We should proclaim what is true on those issues—especially abortion—and on moral issues of cultural deafness.

We must hear the words given to us in the prophet Isaiah, “Be strong, fear not!”  They should remind us of the frequent words of Jesus, constantly re-echoed in the pontificate of Blessed John Paul the Great, “Be not afraid.”  We too often let fear keep us from proclaiming the truth of the Gospel or the teachings of the Church.  We are called to have courage, another gift of the Holy Spirit, fortitude, and we need to pray for that, too.

I encourage you during the course of the week to pray for a deeper faith.  Pray in the quiet of your home or make a visit to pray quietly in Church and ask the Holy Spirit to show you your deafness—the places where you need to hear the words “Be opened.” Finally, let us pray for the gift of fortitude to live our faith in the world and to proclaim the Gospel by our lives.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
The Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila is the eighth bishop of Denver and its fifth archbishop. His episcopal motto is, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).

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