23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Speaking Plainly

Our journey of faith is a never-ending one - one of constantly coming to know The Father through Jesus. It kind of parallels the journey of the first disciples and followers of Jesus'  their coming to faith - their coming to understand who the Father was - and how they came to know him. This is the story that Jesus told over and over again - but it is not just His story; it's our story as well.

The Gospel of Mark is often considered to be the earliest gospel to be written - maybe 60-70 AD. It is neither history nor biography - it is simply the imparting of the Good News. What's interesting about the Gospel of Mark is this: It does not concentrate so much on the teachings of Jesus, but on the mystery of Jesus as a person - and the gradual way in which people came to understand him, how they came to understand their faith and finally how the impact of their encounters with him enabled them to share this faith with others. It is a story about Jesus as "a man with a plan" - a story about Jesus breaking into human life as good news.

The cure of the deaf-mute in today's Gospel passage points to a deeper reality - it is much more than just the healing of a person in need. We are told that Jesus returned "into the district of the ten cities." This is Gentile country, and it is interesting to note that, throughout his ministry, Jesus very seldom ventured across geographical boundaries. Yet he always ventured across political boundaries, religious boundaries and societal boundaries.

If people in today's Gospel were really paying attention to what Jesus was doing. If this man Jesus could give sight, hearing, speech and bodily strength to the people then, besides the physical changes, what deeper realities would be awakened in the person who experienced such wonderful things?  Most of us can hear.  But the kind of hearing we need for our Christian life is much deeper - the hearing that causes a different way of thinking and a different way living our lives.

Christ has touched our ears and opened them to hear the gospel and having heard it, we received a whole new way of hearing and acting.  The deaf man, once cured, speaks "plainly"---and so should we speak and act plainly as witnesses to the gospel manner of life we are learning. Since our ears were opened to God's Word, we hear the cry of those in need whose voices are ignored because they don't have ranking in society; we hear and speak "plainly" for them when they need our voice.

The Gospel Story today tells us that we cannot exist on our own, without sustenance from Him. We need His touch to open our deaf ears. We need his Light to enable us to see clearly in the darkness with the eyes of faith. We need His very Body and Blood to give us the strength to persist in our journey when despair surrounds us.

The healing of the deaf-mute is a lesson that we all need to remember when the weather worsens, when the winds whip up, when we cover our ears to that which makes us afraid, and when we cry out from the depths, hoping that God will answer. And we are clearly reminded that we cannot exist without the support and love of one another.

This is His "new commandment" - we are not only touched by Him and connected to Him, but to one another as well. He taught the truth, he spoke words of comfort, he healed the sick, he brought the gift of hearing to those who were deaf, he rebuked those who needed to be rebuked; he spent time in prayer and in communion with the Father and with ordinary people. Ultimately he laid down his life for those ordinary people. And He invites and calls us to go and do likewise - to love not only in word or speech but in deed and in truth.

We come to another anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11, and the Gospel message has never needed more urgently to be proclaimed. It is our heritage - and like those who have gone before us, we are expected to translate our encounters with Christ into the kind of faith, hope and love that we need to refashion our world. Our mission - like the deaf man now cured - is to "speak plainly," and it will be measured not merely by our own individual strength but by our collaboration; not by our weaknesses but by our willingness to be raised up and supported by one another.

Jesus' ears and heart were open to all people - to all who would listen.  Such inclusion and putting aside walls of separation, would eventually get Jesus into trouble and lead to his death. Those whose ears have been opened by Christ and who act accordingly, will also suffer and perhaps even die. But that is not the end of the story - for they will experience the resurrection, the new life Jesus has promised them.