Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Ears Of The Deaf Will Be Cleared. And The Poor Will Inherit God's Kingdom

In this country, we will pause on Monday from our work, and celebrate Labor Day. Tuesday, will we go back again to the work we do to gain our living.

We would do well by taking some time this weekend to reflect on how the work we do is a blessing for us, and for those around us. In the Book of Genesis, work was one of the curses that resulted from the fall of Adam and Eve. When we leave the church after the Eucharist, we are sent to reverse the curse, and help God to “bless the mess.” Let us consider for a few minutes the ways in which, by our efforts, we can help to bring our world closer to the way it was when God created it.

Think back to the first time you went swimming, or to the day you started your first job, or your first airplane flight. Every time I was in that situation, there always was someone there telling me, “Don’t be scared; everything will be all right.” Easy for them to say, I’m the one standing at the edge of the pool or at the end of the diving board, all by myself!

The people Isaiah is talking to in the First Reading are in exile, a long way from home. They are standing on the edge of life, and they feel like they’re all along. The prophet tells not to be afraid, that their situation is bound to get better.

God will be coming soon, the prophet told them, and when he comes, the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and anyone with a speech impediment will be able to talk clearly. And Isaiah goes on from there: God is going to change the course of nature: springs will gush forth in the deserts, and water the wilderness. I imagine some minds and hearts were just a bit skeptical, “So you say, prophet! I’ll believe it when I dive into one of those cool pools!”

Pay no attention to the Second Reading. Some people are going to hear that all of us are going to be millionaires and we won’t have to lift a finger to earn it. Other people are going to hear that the government is going to take away most of the money we’ve earned and put in the bank, and give it to people who have never lifted a finger to earn it. You might thing Saint James knew that there was going to be a national election this year. Whatever your politics, turn off your heart’s hearing aid, and the Reading won’t bother you so much.

Today’s gospel is a genuinely touching story. Some people bring to Jesus a man who has a severe hearing loss, and a speech impediment. When I was a lad, such folks were labeled “deaf and dumb”. How cruel! The man’s friends ask Jesus to lay hands on him, but Jesus goes a step further, and puts his fingers into the man’s ears, while he turns his eyes up to heaven and starts to pray. The people around him can’t hear any words, only grunts and groans. Then he says, “Ephphata!” -- “Open up!” Jesus tells the man who was healed and the people in the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news.

Here we see Jesus performing the ministry of the Messiah. Jesus doesn’t only heal the man of his deafness, he offer him redemption. This is the labor of Jesus, the work for which he has been sent into the world: to open our eyes to the needs of others, and our ears to their pleas for help. Jesus fulfills his mission perfectly, but still, there is one part missing from the mission of salvation: our part. Jesus cannot force any of us to really listen, and to all what we have heard to help us do our part in the work of creation as fully as God knows we can. Sometimes, listing to the words by which other people define us – or those we use to define ourselves – and those we use to describe other people – lessens our ability to hear the voice of the Lord speaking to our hearts. If we keep our fingers in the ears of our souls, we can become so used to not listening, that we don’t pay attention to the speaker. Jesus is speaking to ME!

No comments: