2.9.18 Fri. Wk 5 – O.T. – (II)
1st Book of Kings 11: 29 – 32, 12: 19
Gospel of Mark 7: 31 – 37
†Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak. The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Healed From Fear
Many of us are familiar with the famous words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. It was in the midst of the depression, families in this country were struggling to survive, many were out of work, many not knowing where the next meal would come from,; there were long soup lines in our major cities. FDR was striving to call the nation to hope and to trust that all would be well. Fear is one of the most binding and destructive forces that we know; entire nations have succumb under fear.
In our first reading today, as we have been hearing over the last several days, is the story of King Solomon who possessed wisdom that was second to none. Yet, it seems he feared his reputation and also it seems like he feared his many wives, building altars to the pagan gods of his wives. His faith and relationship with the true God had become paralyzed by this fear. He could not stand up for his faith against his wives and their cultures. In fact, the hill where Solomon built all those temples to the false gods in Jerusalem is just to the south of the Mt. of Olives. And that hill, even to this day, is called: “The Mount of Abomination,” recalling when Solomon put up all of those temples and monuments to false gods.
So as we read today, in our first Reading – Ahijah the prophet presents ten pieces of his cloak to Jeroboam, who was not the successor to Solomon. They represented the ten northern tribes that would break away from Judah – and that region would become known as Israel. So you have Israel that would be ruled by Jeroboam. Fear had become an impediment to Solomon’s fidelity to God and to his reign.
In the Gospel, we read of a deaf man who was healed of his impediments. †Jesus healed him: his ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed and he could praise God freely, no longer bound by those physical infirmities.
This morning we can ask ourselves this question: “What are the impediments to my spiritual life”?
What keeps me from freely experiencing and expressing God’s love and mercy – my faith in God? Is it the need to be accepted, maybe that’s my impediment? I need to be accepted and so I am very timid about expressing my faith; maybe it’s my need to feel secure – so maybe it is power or prestige that is my impediment.
In a week and a half – on the First Sunday of Lent – the Gospel will tell us how †Jesus faced these questions in the desert – tempted by the evildoer with power, possessions and prestige. †Jesus was not afraid of those temptations because His faith and His trust rested clearly – solidly in “Abba”.
Solomon, however, sought prestige and this became his spiritual impediment. He could not, as we say: “wear his faith on his sleeve,” because of his fear. In the Gospels we find †Jesus often critical of those who are ‘prestige–seekers,’ who prefer popularity to expressing their faith. In Luke’s Gospel, †Jesus said: “When you are invited to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor…go and take the lowest place”. (Luke 14:8-9) †Jesus also taught: “The first shall be last and the last – they shall be first”. (Matt.20:16) In His first sermon in Nazareth – †Jesus entered the Synagogue and read this from the scroll of Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor” (Luke 4:18) (not to those with prestige – but to the poor). And during His Sermon on the Mount, the first Beatitude that †Jesus proclaimed was: “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for the Kingdom of God is theirs”. (Matt.5:3)
If we want to possess the Kingdom – to be poor in Spirit – we must go out of ourselves, out of our ego, remove self from self. Abraham Lincoln once said: “God must love common folk – because He made so many of them”. That’s true! We must learn to overcome the fear of being simple, the fear of being faithful to †Jesus. In our culture, that is a real fear because there are consequences of living our faith as Catholics – rejection by some. This may be difficult for some who crave attention and prestige and who are afraid of the rejection, but like the deaf man in the Gospel, all we need to do is to call out to †Jesus for help. He will help us. Pray for the strength and the grace that is needed. Recall what †Jesus said to the man who asked him to come and heal his son. †Jesus said: “Is there no faith in Israel”? The man answered: “Lord, I do believe, but help my unbelief”. (Mark 9:24) It is that part of me that just can’t give myself fully in faith to the Lord.
In the four Gospels we find †Jesus spending more time with common people than with anyone else; with the poor, the rejected, those who are in need of healing. This is because they were better listeners. They had nothing to protect – like the wealthy had to protect, or the worldly had to protect. To the common people – their life was what it was; a struggle. They had nothing to protect. They recognized that it was ‘His Word’ that made them rich, and faith in †Jesus took away their fear and replaced it with trust. It is the love of †Jesus that makes me ‘someone.’ To be a disciple of †Jesus is all the prestige that I need because He died for me! (pointing to the crucifix hanging on the wall) No one else has done that! That speaks volumes for how much He loves me.
Prayerfully reflect on what is impeding your relationship with †Jesus. This coming Lent – ask †Jesus to help you to remove those impediments and choose something to do for Lent that will help remove them. Giving up candy or that glass of wine at night is will not remove those impediments. Find something that will put you on that journey to a deeper spiritual life, your journey to holiness. Do not indulge in those things that are more important to you than growing in holiness, those things you hold on to for security, those things you are afraid to let go of. And like the man in the Gospel story, †Jesus will work a miracle in your life – and He will set you free.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.