POPE FRANCIS’ REFLECTION 23rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME B
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 5 September 2021
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
The Gospel for today’s liturgy presents Jesus who heals a deaf man with a speech impediment. What is striking about this story is how the Lord performs this prodigious sign. He took the deaf man aside, put his finger into the man’s ears, and touched his tongue with saliva. Then he looked up to heaven, groaned, and said to him: “Ephphatha”, that is, “Be opened!” (cf Mk 7:33-34). In other healings, for infirmities as serious as paralysis or leprosy, Jesus did not do as many things. So why does he do all of this, even though they had only asked him to lay his hands on the sick man (cf. v.32)? Maybe it was because that person’s condition had a particularly symbolic value. The condition of deafness is also a symbol that can say something to all of us. What is this about? Deafness. That man was unable to speak because he could not hear. To heal the cause of his infirmity, Jesus, in fact, placed his fingers first of all in the man’s ears, then his mouth, but his ears first.
We all have ears, but very often we are not able to hear. Why is this? Brothers and sisters, there is an interior deafness that we can ask Jesus to touch and heal today. It is interior deafness, which is worse than physical deafness, because it is the deafness of the heart. Taken up with haste, by so many things to say and do, we do not find time to stop and listen to those who speak to us. We run the risk of becoming impervious to everything and not making room for those who need to be heard. I am thinking about children, young people, the elderly, the many who do not really need words and sermons, but to be heard. Let us ask ourselves: how is my capacity to listen going? Do I let myself be touched by people’s lives? Do I know how to spend time with those who are close to me in order to listen? This regards all of us, but in a special way also priests. The priest must listen to people, not in a rushed way, but listen and see how he can help, but after having listened. And all of us: first listen, then respond. Think about family life: how many times do we talk without listening first, repeating the same things, always the same things! Incapable of listening, we always say the same things, or we do not let the other person finish talking, expressing themselves, and we interrupt them. Starting a dialogue often happens not through words but silence, by not insisting, by patiently beginning anew to listen to others, hearing about their struggles and what they carry inside. The healing of the heart begins with listening. Listening. This is what restores the heart. “But Father, there are boring people who say the same things over and over again…” Listen to them. And then, when they have finished talking, you may speak, but listen to everything.
And the same is true with the Lord. It is good to inundate Him with requests, but it is better that we first of all listen to him. Jesus requests this. In the Gospel, when they ask him what is the first commandment, he answered: “Hear, O Israel”. Then he added the first commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…(and) your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:28-31). But first of all, “Hear, O Israel”. Do we remember to listen to the Lord? We are Christians, but sometimes with the thousands of words we hear every day, we do not find a moment to let a few words of the Gospel resound in us. Jesus is the Word: if we do not stop to listen to Him, He moves on. Saint Augustine said, “I fear that Jesus will pass by me unnoticed.” And the fear was to let Him pass by without hearing Him. But if we dedicate time to the Gospel, we will find the secret for our spiritual health. This is the medicine: every day a little silence and listening, fewer useless words and more of the Word of God. Always with the Gospel in your pocket that can help greatly. Today, as on the day of our Baptism, we hear the words of Jesus addressed to us: “Ephphatha, be opened!” Open your ears. Jesus, I want to open myself to your Word; Jesus, open myself to listening to you; Jesus, heal my heart from being closed, heal my heart from haste, heal my heart from impatience.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was open to hearing the Word which became flesh in her, help us every day to listen to her Son in the Gospel and to our brothers and sisters with a docile heart, with a patient heart, and with an attentive heart.
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