Christ allows us to see and hear what really matters—and then to speak it to others

A Reflection for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Times

Readings: Isaiah 35: 4-7a James 2: 1-5 Mark 7: 31-37

Last Saturday morning I was finishing a homily for the afternoon’s wedding, so I let the phone take a message. “Father, this is Dale. I wanted you to know that Joanita is in the hospital.” There was a pause as he composed himself. “And if you could drop by…if you can drop by after a while, thank you, sir. Talk to you later, Father. Thank you. She’s not well.”

The wedding homily would wait while I went to the hospital. Dale helped me to write it. He also started me on this Sunday’s sermon. Dale did both because I could hear in his voice his love and his concern for his wife.

Seeing the promise yet to come, the Prophet Isaiah declared, “then the tongue of the mute will sing” (35:6). If our Lord did not still do these things, make the deaf to hear and the mute to sing, there would be no reason to remember what St. Mark records:

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 (7:33-35).

Jesus still makes the mute sing. How? First, through the gift of his grace, he allows us to hear and to see what matters. Then the same grace searches for our voice. It speaks words we alone can say, but their origin and their completion lie in Christ. They are words of truth, comfort and intercession.

Jesus still makes the mute sing. How? First, through the gift of his grace, he allows us to hear and to see what matters. Then the same grace searches for our voice.

We come into this world mute. The Latin word “infant” means “the one unable to speak.” Eventually, most everyone learns to talk. The real task is discovering what we are to say, learning words of life that we alone can speak.

No one has come to Christian maturity, found his or her vocation in Christ, without learning to speak to others and for others. It may be a pressing, very public concern, and we feel that our voice must be heard. But Christ also speaks in the simplest of sayings. He speaks in words the wider world does not note, yet they are spoken before him, in him, through him. Our words might seem to offer so little to those whom we love. Yet because they are spoken in Christ, because they are taken up into the sound, clarity and truth of his voice, they have their effect.

Love seeks expression. It must speak itself. To love others is to speak to them, to say those words that cheer, comfort and encourage them. And as Dale reminded me, to love others is to speak on their behalf.

This human need to speak, to find our own voice, reflects our origin in God. For God the Father, to love us is to speak to us. Jesus is the word the Father speaks, and in him we find our own voices. We learn to speak love. In Christ, the tongues of the mute still sing.