Sunday, September 9, 2012

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Times - Reflection During Homily

Jesus Christ heals us in truly amazing ways. He heals us from the bad things in all of our lives if we are open to it. The Kingdom of God is present. All we need to do is open our ears to hear.

But we have to first heed Isaiah's plea to "Be strong. Fear not."

I'd like to share a story about a boy I know.

When he was seven, his baby sister died. She had a congenital heart defect. The little girl lived to be three and her suffering made a big impression on her big brother. Some of the boy's first memories are of going to the hospital to see his little sister held up to a window as he stood with his grandmother outside.

The little girl would die in the arms of their mother on the way to the hospital after a long illness.

Fast forward seven years, and the boy was now a teenager. He was 14 and in middle school, but he was hiding a dark family secret. His sister's death had triggered his father's mental illness. For several years, his father checked into mental hospitals for electric shock treatments in hopes of ridding him of his demons. It was an all too common drama for his mother, two brothers and himself. One the boy was too embarrassed to share with his friends.

The boy had a paper route and was up at the crack of dawn every morning to deliver the daily news. One November morning as he was returning home from his paper route, his father met him at the door.

It was a work day, but his father was not dressed for work. The 40-year-old man had eyes red with tears as he told the boy he loved him and then said "goodbye."

The boy knew something was wrong. But he didn't tell anybody. Instead he just dressed and went to school. That afternoon, his uncle picked him up after sports practice and told him his father had committed suicide.

The boy started to cry.

Just then, two of his friends came up and said "Hi," and the boy buried his tears of anguish and pain, putting them away for many, many years.

Fast forward again and the boy was now a man. He has two children of his own and a beautiful wife. His life has been extraordinarily blessed. But there's an unresolved wound in need of healing.

The man goes to Church with his family, but is not really buying this faith thing. His wife signs him up to be a lector in the parish. He studied speech in college and was even a competitive public speaker. She thought it was a good place for his talents.

He agreed, but only to keep his faith-filled wife happy. It wasn't going to change how he felt about going to Church. For him, he was just going through the motions.

The man trained with a long-time lector in the parish asking the lector if he should count to five or ten on the "prayers of the faithful" when it called for "prayers in the silence of our hearts." The patient trainer told him to "just listen for the Holy Spirit."

As he began to serve as a lector, the man could swear the readings he read and heard every week were aimed directly at his life. This startled him.

Over the next advent season, the man had an amazing experience. As he read and listened to the readings at Mass, he felt he was being called to do something he swore he would never do.

So, one day after Mass, he told his wife he wanted to go for a drive to a special place to do something important.

As they approached the place, his young boys asked, "Daddy, where are we going?" The father explained, "You know my dad died when I was a boy. This is the cemetery where he's buried... next to my little sister."

As the man walked up to the tombstone, he knelt and did what he heard the Word of God telling him to do. He forgave his father.

As he forgave his father, a weight was lifted off his shoulders and he began to cry.

And in his tears of sorrow and joy, the man realized the Father he was really forgiving was God the Father. And the man wept even harder.

God wants into the unhealed and broken parts of our hearts. Jesus Christ wants to take us away from the hustle and bustle of this present world and perform a miracle in our lives.

But we have to be open to letting these miracles happen. And they may not always be the miracles we expect.

In Mark's Gospel today, Jesus uses the word "Ephphatha" when curing the deaf man. We are told in the reading the word means, "be opened." But it also means "be released."

By Jesus healing this deaf-mute, Mark is showing us all that Jesus is opening up people to the word of God.

By taking this man away from the crowds and doing this miracle in private, Jesus is manifesting the love God has for each and every one of us and how it is shown in personal and private ways throughout our lives.

The whole Gospel event echoes the words found in our first reading from Isaiah:

"Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing."

This living water -- the Word of God -- poured out from this ambo at Mass each week is a well-spring for our salvation.

It is living water that bursts forth in the desert of our modern world. And we all know what happens when water bursts forth in the desert? Beautiful new life begins to bloom.

As we drink of this water each week, we are healed by our Lord and Savior. We are given new life and are called to shed our old lives. We are called to "Be strong, fear not!" We enter the Kingdom of God.

For Mark and his readers, Jesus is saying, "Follow me on my way. Care for my people, until there are no longer any sick or hurting people on this earth. But know that in your healing service of others you will experience the same pain that I experienced in making you whole. Stay with me. I will provide the nourishment you need."

I think many of you have probably already guessed as to the identity of the man whose life was changed by the Word of God.

I am forever grateful to my God, for this beautiful faith community, and to Jesus Christ for healing me from the personal tragedies in my life.

I was once deaf. But now I hear.

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