September 6, 2009
Aspire to Inspire
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 7: 31-37 “He looked up to heaven and groaned, "Ephphatha!"
In the old baptismal rite, priest used to touch the ears of the candidate with his thumb and says, “The Lord Jesus who made the deaf hears and the dumb speaks grant you the privilege to listen to His word and profess your faith.” We don’t do that anymore. Unfortunately, it is an important part of the baptismal rite. It emphasizes the Christians’ obligation to listen to the Word of God and to faithfully proclaim it.
In our gospel today, it is good to note that the deaf and dumb man represents all those who are deaf to the Word of God. Our concern here is not the physical deafness but the spiritual deafness. We do hear the Word of God but we don’t internalize it. If listening to the Word of God regularly and faithfully is already difficult, how much more of the call to proclaim it? We cannot effectively preach what we don’t faithfully live and practiced.
When I was in high school, I had a hearing problem. After visiting an E.E.N.T. specialist, I was informed that it was just a big “tutuli” (ear wax) that caused my hearing problem. It was a big relief to hear perfectly again after the doctor removed my big “tutuli” in my right ear. In our gospel, Jesus placed his finger into the man’s ears. I guess he was trying to remove the “tutuli” from the man’s ears! Pause for a moment. Ask yourself, “What are your spiritual “tutulis” that block you from hearing what God wants you to do? From hearing the voice of the marginalized and the poor? From hearing our Muslim brothers and sisters? Anger, hate, pride, hurt, biases and prejudices may contribute to our spiritual and psychological “tutuli.” They do block our capacity and sensitivity to listen to God and also to our others.
When Jesus led the man away from the crowd, Jesus knew that we don’t have the courage to openly admit our “tutuli.” Cleaning ears is a private thing. Most of the time, accepting our faults is also very personal. We are more comfortable to admit our faults and ask forgiveness in private. And yet our gospel tells us that removing our “tutulis” through repentance is necessary, for us to hear clearly the voice of God.
In the Old Testament, prophets proclaimed the message of God with their lips. Thus, Jews believed that the Spirit of God was intrinsically connected to the prophets’ breath. They believed that the “Breath of God” (Holy Spirit) was concentrated in the prophet’s saliva. So when Jesus touched the tongue of the man with His saliva, Jesus freely gave him the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit of God dwells in us, we become bold and fired-up in proclaiming the God’s love. After touching the ears and tongue of the man, Jesus then said, “Ephphatha” (“Be opened”) and immediately the man was healed and started proclaiming God’s love.
Proclaiming the good news of God does not necessarily mean becoming a prominent speaker or gospel evangelizer like Mike Velarde, Bishop Chito Tagle and Bo Sanchez. Most of the time, we touch and convert souls, not because we are good speakers, but because people see something beautiful and enticing in our lives. The early Christians attracted new members because of how they loved one another (Acts 2:43-47). Christians don’t work for praises, for self-interest, and for self-glorification. Everything we do is for God’s greater glory. What the world needs now are living witnesses of the loving God. We are His presence here on earth. As the saying goes, “Let’s aspire to inspire people before we expire.”
Fr.Bustamante,SJ posted in his Facebook wall, “I think this Sunday Gospel speaks this: “The greatest tragedy of all is NOT to be born deaf and dumb, but to have ears and fail to listen and to have tongues and fail to speak and act the message of God’s love.””
- Willy M. Samson,SJ
September 6, 2009 / Sacred Heart Chapel / Ateneo de Zamboanga