23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

“He has done all things well.  He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The Gospel this morning relates that the crowds were “exceedingly astonished”; and their astonishment was not just a reaction to the miracle that Jesus had performed.  They were astonished at the fact that Jesus healed a deaf man, to be sure, but their astonishment went deeper than that.

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.  Everything in the Old Testament pointed to the Redeemed, Who had been promised from the very beginning.  For centuries the Jews had been awaiting the Messiah- The One Who would come to deliver them.  The Jewish people of Jesus’ time knew the many Prophecies surrounding the coming of the Messiah.  We heard one of those Prophecies this morning.

In the First Reading, from the Book of Isaiah, the Prophet told the people that God would come to save them.  And he further predicted that when God came, “the ears of the deaf [would] be cleared . . . the tongue of the mute [would] sing.”  The first century witnesses of the miracle related in the Gospel were undoubtedly acquainted with this Scripture passage from Isaiah.  Surely this would have been a sign for them that the Lord was in their midst, that their redemption was at hand.

By this miracle, the Lord fulfilled the Old Testament Reading from Isaiah.  The Gospel tells us that as soon as the Lord spoke, “immediately the man’s ears were opened and his speech impediment was removed.”  The same Lord Who created the universe and everything in it, through Whom all things were created out of nothing, told a deaf man’s ears to “Be opened!” and immediately they were.  The Lord instantaneously healed this man of his speech impediment, “and [the man] spoke plainly.”

What a gift that must have been!  Most of us probably can’t even imagine what that must have been like to be deprived of the gift of hearing and the gift of speech.  In this day and age, it can be hard to imagine going a day without communicating with others.  We are constantly engaged in dialogue with others through cell phones, the Internet, text messages, blogs, etc.

Communication is a gift from the Lord.  We mostly take it for granted, but imagine the joy that the man in the Gospel must have had when he pronounced those first words after the Lord healed him.  He had been unable to communicate with others.  He couldn’t hear and he couldn’t speak.  There weren’t any text messages.  He couldn’t just whip off an email.  Many people couldn’t even read or write.  Communication must have been near impossible for him.  What words of gratitude and thanksgiving must have issued forth from that man’s newly healed mouth!  I am sure that he was truly appreciative for the ability to communicate with others.

The Lord created us in His own image and likeness; and we know that God is a Trinity of Persons.  We were created out of love and we were created for love.  Animals cannot carry on conversations with one another.  We, human beings, are the only creatures in the whole world that have this great gift: the ability to share our thoughts, feelings, ideas and hopes with others.  We have tongues, and with our tongues we should praise God and build one another up.

The problem is that we often take this great gift for granted.  We misuse this ability.  We can abuse this gift that we have received from the Lord and we use it to attack others.  Saint James says that the tongue is a small member and yet it can do great harm: With our tongues we bless the Lord and with the same tongue we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.  (cf. James 3:5-10)

Reigning in the tongue can be a great challenge.  In the heat of anger we can oftentimes say things that we later regret.  A simple word can seem like a small thing; it doesn’t take much energy to utter a word.  And yet words can have profound impacts upon our lives.  Words can convey our love to others; and words can be the cause of a grudge that can divide a family for decades.

It would be good for us to examine our own use of this gift during this upcoming week.  Do we use language for what it was intended: to convey truth and communicate love?  Do we use language to build up, or to tear down others?  Do we engage in gossip behind other’s backs?  How would we feel if we found out that others were talking behind our backs?  Aren’t we supposed to treat others the way that we would want to be treated?  Let us strive to gain control of our tongues.  St. James tells us that if we can gain control of our tongue we will be better able to exercise self-control in all other aspects of our lives.  (cf. James 3:2)  Let us be grateful for the gift of speech and use it as God intended.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for creating us with the ability to communicate with You and with one another.  May we always use this gift in a way that pleases You.  Forgive us, for the times when we have misused our tongues.  Help us to love you always and our neighbors as ourselves for love of You.  Amen.

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