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23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

I was having a phone conversation with my 4 year old nephew. Initially he was so engaged in our conversation. When I asked him to sing me a new song, he said: “I can’t hear you. What are you saying, uncle? The signal is weak. Sorry, I have to put down the phone.” He becomes deaf whenever I ask him to sing or recite a poem!

The gospel today offers a glimpse of the power of Jesus over sickness and infirmity. We see Jesus healing the deaf-mute. The condition of the deaf-mute is critical because it has something to do with communication and relationship. If you cannot hear, then you cannot receive any message from another. If you cannot hear, you will not learn how to speak correctly.

The Jews put the emphasis on hearing when it comes to relationships, both with fellow humans and especially with God. “Hear o Israel…” was a common invitation to relationship with God. The other cultures around Israel put emphasis on seeing but the Jews were a people of hearing. The eyes are easy to manipulate. Just open your eyes and you can look at everything you want to see. Close your eyes and you shut yourself to the world around you.

But can you shut your ears? Even if we put earplugs in our ears, we can still sense what is happening; we can still hear faint sounds coming from the person speaking to us. The ear is a principal organ for communication.

The gospel is not only describing physical deafness. Though there are deaf people, there are a lot more who are pretending to be deaf, to hear nothing, to understand little of what God or other people are saying to them. Many people are deaf not physically but spiritually. Many people are deaf not by nature or accident but by choice. They want to live their lives without the positive influence that caring and concerned people can have on them.

In our relationships, do we allow others to open our ears and enable us to hear? Young people, you do listen to your parents’ advice and direction? Husbands and wives, do you listen to each other’s stories with trust and respect? Neighbors, do you listen to the cries of the poor, the suffering and the lonely among you? Politicians, do you really listen to the needs and situations of the people you serve? As Christians, do we really listen to the voice of Jesus calling us to live our lives in accordance with God’s will?

A man heard my preaching on the prohibition to receive Communion for those who are not married according to church rites. He felt angry because he was disregarding this discipline for a long time. But though he was angry with me, his heart was sensitive to the message of the Lord. He researched about this church teaching and prayed about it. Later, he decided to follow the Lord’s will and I officiated his wedding. His wife, long a born-again Christian, decided to return to the Catholic Church and have their children baptized.

Jesus is here to invite us who are spiritually deaf to become spiritually active and receptive to the message of God for our lives and to the signs of love that our neighbors come to offer. Let us allow Jesus to open our ears again.