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Spiritual Hearing and Our Fears

Here is my homily for this past week.  In the past I haven’t posted many of my homilies here because I think most people reading this blog probably heard the homily in church.  So, I would only post the homily here when there was a particular point I wanted to include on this blog.  Please let me know if you would like to see me regularly post my homilies here.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Isaiah 35:4-7a
James 2:1-5
Mark 7:31-37
September 9, 2012

Isaiah writes in a time when the northern kingdom has fallen to the enemies and the Israelites in the southern kingdom fear the same may happen to them.

Isaiah is given a message by God to assure the Israelites that God is with them, that they do not need to be afraid.  They have a hard time believing that.  

Fear is a powerful thing.  Fear can blind us from seeing what is really happening.  In fear, we may not hear everything.  We might only hear what confirms our fears.  In our fears, it can be very difficult to hear the assurances that God offers us.

Many of the Israelites lived in a common fear that their enemy would be victorious over them.  And that fear was a real fear had it not been for the assurances that God offered them.

Some fears are very justified and can be a common fear for a united people.  Some fears really aren’t that bad.  What is fearful for one person might seem easy for another.

What do you fear?

Some fear war (very understandable).  Some, especially now, live in fear of losing their job.  For some, disease like cancer is a very real fear.  For some, their greatest fear is being left alone.

One of the things that I used to see as a fear was “public speaking.”  Obviously, this became an issue when I began to feel a call to the priesthood.  Through prayer and reflection I came to realize that I wasn’t really afraid  of public speaking.  I didn’t doubt my ability to do it when needed.  As an introvert, I just didn’t want to do it.  Now, I have gotten used to it and I don’t even think about it much.

Another fear for me has been the fear of the unknown.  With that I tend not to like big changes.  But for the last 12 years my life has had a lot of change in it.  Quitting my job, moving around – you know in the last 12 years, I have not had the same mailing address for more than 3 years.

But I have come to realize that God has been with me in the midst of all the changes.  None of the changes caused me major problems.  Through all of it Jesus walked with me.

So I have learned to approach change differently.  Instead of worrying so much about the logistics of the change, I try to make my primary concern be to ask if the change is God’s Will.  If it is that I know God will help.

It’s not that I still don’t think about the details of the change.  We have to but I don’t let my fear of the change blind me.  I don’t let the fear cover my ears so that I can’t hear the Lord.

The people bring to Jesus a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment.  The deaf man could not hear what people were physically saying to him.  He couldn’t hear them tell him they love him.  He couldn’t hear them warn him about something.  Hearing is a difficult thing to lose.  It can be overcome with God’s help.  We can learn other ways to communicate but it is a challenge.

The man in the gospel had a physical hearing problem but we can also speak of a spiritually hearing loss.  I already mentioned how our fears can keep us from hearing God.

To heal the deaf man, Jesus does something very unusual.  He points his finger in the man’s ear and touches his tongue and declares “Ephphata!”

A very strange sight but at the words and actions of Jesus the man is healed.

One of the very last things that can be done at a baptism of a child is the Ephphata Rite.  The priest or deacon touches the child’s ears as he says “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak.  May he soon touch your ears to receive his word,” and then touching the lips “and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.”

We need to hear God’s Word but our fears can make that very difficult.  God’s Word offers assurances of his love and grace, of his presence among us.

Fears can keep us from God’s grace.  That’s why we must make a leap of faith to turn our fears over to the Lord.  When we open ourselves to God’s grace, he helps know when our fears are not real and when they are real, God gives us the grace to manage our fears.  It’s not that whatever causes our fears stops but we see it in new light, see it as God sees it.

Only when we strive to hand our fears over to God, can we hear him over the fears.  Then we follow him and proclaim what we have received in his Word to others with our lips.

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