Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost – The Healing Of The Deaf-Mute
GOSPEL. Mark vii. 31-37. At that time: Jesus going out of the coasts of Tyre, came by Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring to him one deaf and dumb: and they besought him that he would lay his hand upon him. And taking him from the multitude apart, he put his fingers into his ears, and spitting, he touched his tongue: and looking up to heaven, he groaned, and said to him: Ephpheta, which is, Be thou opened. And immediately his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke right. And he charged them that they should tell no man. But the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal did they publish it: and so much the more did they wonder, saying: He hath done all things well; he hath made both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.
The Healing Of The Deaf-Mute
Our Lord was considered in His time the merciful healer of all human infirmities. We read in this Gospel that a deaf-mute was offered to Him for cure. The deaf-mute is considered a figure of the sinner. When the sinner falls into a great sin, and especially when he relapses often, and becomes habituated to it, he grows deaf to the voice of Our Lord, who is anxious that he be freed from his spiritual infirmities, and mute in declaring his trouble to the one who could cure him. Our Lord is impatient at this sick man, because he will do nothing for himself and will not co-operate with grace, and so menaces him with the terrible chastisements, which often come to great sinners; but all these threats are in vain. There are many such deaf-mutes, many obstinate sinners among our young people, and the words of the ancient prophet can be put into their mouths: “Depart from us, God, we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.”
In the life of St. Martin there is told a story about blind people that may be very applicable in cases of spiritual blindness. A number of blind men who were accustomed to gather near a church to beg were laying their plans how best to succeed, and they pointed out to one another the posts they were to occupy. After a while they heard that the Bishop was coming, whereat they all scampered off, lest they should be cured, for St. Martin was a great worker of miracles. They all were blind, and made a good living by exhibiting their infirmity and poverty. The point of the story is this: that our young people who are spiritually blind do not want to be cured, and they are very much afraid lest some good, pious person will cause them to be converted. It is singular that hateful as sin is, abominable, mean, low, filthy, there are people who become fond of it, and will fly from anything that is good or likely to bring them to God. They fly from church, from good people, from prayer, from every act of mortification. They cling to sin; they love sin for its own sake, and for the pleasure they derive from it; they love in temperance on account of the pleasure of gluttony; love impurity for the satisfaction of their passions, their senses and imaginations. They wish to sleep the sleep of sin, and will not be wakened out of it. Not only is the poor sinner deaf, but he is also dumb, since he does not speak, either because he cannot or because he will not. In nature dumbness comes as a natural consequence of deafness, because where the person is deaf and cannot hear his own voice, there is no incentive to talk, which after a while induces such absolute silence that a deaf person eventually loses the faculty of speech, though he still has the power of speech. In the spiritual life one malady is the consequence of the other. In a similar manner David the prophet seems to indicate this, for he connects both maladies very closely, saying: “But I, as a deaf man, heard not, and as a dumb man, not opening his mouth.”
It is certainly a most unhappy state to feel the need of calling upon Our Lord for help, and of looking for the pardon of our sins, and not be able to do it. Among the young there are many who do not pray to God at all; days and months, yes, years pass, and not a thought of prayer; they never pray to those who could intercede for them; they do not pray to St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin, or to their patron saints. They are mute, too, as regards confession. Jesus Christ instituted confession, and we must go and declare our sins to a priest if we want to obtain their pardon. Every Catholic knows the belief of the Church as regards the Sacrament of Confession; but with all this knowledge, how many there are who are afraid of confession, who will not open their mouths to the priest. They know how easy it is to obtain pardon of their sins through this sacrament, and still they will not make use of it. They conceal their sins through shame; it is true they confess their lighter offences, little faults, little lies, small disobediences, and other things of this kind as if they were saints with no great faults, but anything shameful, blasphemies and impurities especially, they pass over. Poor deluded sinner, you can hide your sins now, but on the Day of Judgment the dreadful hour will come when, besides these sins, your sacrileges will be laid before the whole world.
My dear young friends, if at any time you should have had the misfortune of falling into a great sin, let shame indeed come over your soul for its misery; but oh, hasten with sorrow to the feet of your confessor and there, with the blush of shame, but humbly and candidly, lay bare your conscience and receive absolution. Do not think that in that horrible state of sin anything will take the place of confession; prayers, fasts or alms will not obtain remission of your sins; nothing will, except that confession with true sorrow and a resolution to do better.
In the life of St. Benedict, we read of a certain young man of good birth and education and of a virtuous character, who, having lost his parents by death, resolved to leave the world. He sold all his goods and gave the money to the poor, and then sought a hermitage where he could lead a holy life. He built himself a small chapel, and in it placed an altar before which he prayed day and night, so that in a short time he was considered a saint. The devil, envying the youth his advancement in virtue, set about ruining him, and began by attacking him with horrible temptations. The youth vanquished him by prayer, but one day he was a little careless about his prayers. That was the devil’s opportunity; again he tempted the youth and this time succeeded in exciting in him impure desires to which he consented. Quickly he came to himself, however: with groans he threw himself on the floor of his little chapel and cried out: “Pelagius, what a great fall was this; from heaven to hell; a little while ago a child of God, brother of Jesus Christ, now a slave of Satan, a brother of devils. By thus consenting to wickedness you have lost all the merit of your good actions. How will you get out of this? If you go to confession your sin will be known, and you will lose the esteem of all.” Angry at himself, he disciplined his body until blood came, thinking he could by this means receive pardon from God. But he never gained the peace of mind which comes after a sincere confession. Even on his death-bed he could not bring himself to confess, for those who close their mouths on their sins in life will not find their tongues in the hour of death. So he died in his sin and is probably now suffering in hell.
The prophet David tells us: “I have acknowledged my sin to Thee and my injustice I have not concealed.” And in this way we, too, must say: “Lord, I have confessed my sin sincerely, and the consolation of Thy forgiveness has filled my heart.” You can indeed easily obtain the pardon of your sins if you confess them sincerely; you can drag yourselves out of hell fire, from the already blazing pile, by a sincere acknowledgment of your particular sins. There is no doubt that there are millions in heaven just because they confessed the sins which would have sent them to hell. Mary Magdalen must have been ashamed when she anointed the feet and head of Our Lord; she heard the declaration of the Pharisees that she was a bad woman, but her public confession obtained her forgiveness. In “The Confessions of St. Augustine,” a book which is in many libraries, we find that he committed many sins.
When the deaf man was brought to Our Lord, He placed His fingers in the man’s ears, and moistened them with spittle; then raising His eyes to heaven, He said with a sigh: “Be opened!” When this had been done the man’s ears were opened and the strings of his tongue were loosed. In every case at our Baptism, this very ceremony is performed by the priest, to teach us that we should have our ears open to hear the word of God, but to close them to wickedness.
My dear young friends, do we generally keep our ears closed to bad conversation? There is much pleasure in a hearty laugh, or whatever may excite it, especially if the subject be a little spicy, as it is lightly called. This listening to evil communications is very common among all classes of people, but especially the young; in the factory where boys and girls work near one another, horrid things are said that should bring a blush to the cheek of an innocent girl; in the streets impure jokes are heard daily. Full grown men at public works guile away the hours of hard labor by filthy talk, and who is there among them courageous enough to put a stop to such to call upon the promoters to refrain or to change the subject? When St. Aloysius Gonzaga once heard an old man use some very improper words in the hearing of young men of the court, the saint arose and said: “Are you, an old man, not ashamed to utter such words before youths? You ought to be better disposed and teach them what is good instead of scandalizing them.”
St. Paul says that: “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” St. Bernardine of Siena was once walking with a companion who made a nasty remark, whereupon the saint turned on him and gave him a smart slap in the face, saying: “Such a nasty remark can not be allowed to pass without showing my disapproval.”
What remedy, my dear young people, is there for bad conversation? The good Jesus once touched with His holy hands the tongue of a dumb man and he was entirely cured. Do this by often going to communion with the intention that the body of the Lord may touch your tongue and cure that member of all its wickedness and purify it; the efficacy of one communion is indeed great to that end. The flesh of the Immaculate Lamb will purify your heart, from which proceed evil thoughts and bad desires. Noble minds, minds that are not continually bent on the satisfaction of the passions, are beyond such lowness. You may be sure that those who continually talk of impurity, do so from the fulness of the heart, and sooner or later they will advance from words to the fulness of wickedness and indulge in that vice.
When Our Lord had performed the miracle apart from the crowd, He brought the man back to those who had conducted him thither, and told them not to tell of the miracle to others. But they were so enthusiastic over it that they went about speaking loudly of it and praising God, for they said: “He hath done all things well, He hath made both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.” Let us reflect on these words: “He hath done all things well.” We, too, should do all our actions well, and certainly the best means to progress in virtue is day by day to perform in a commendable manner all the duties of our station in life. When we pray or when we meditate let us do it well; let us be recollected before God. Pray with devotion, pour out our hearts in His presence, expose our necessities to Him and ask His help. Let us assist at Mass with the sentiments we would have had were we standing beneath the cross on Calvary, and looking at the crucifixion and the death of Our Lord.
When we say the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, if we practice any devotion in her honor, let us approach the throne of this good Mother as her beloved children should approach her—give ourselves up to her with unbounded confidence. When we go to confession let us remember that we are about to cleanse our souls in the blood of Christ; and let us make our confession with profound humility, with clearness, sincerity and interior compunction. Let us draw great fruit from it for the correction of our life. When we go to communion what an effort should we make to dispose ourselves properly, with love, for Jesus unites our soul with His, our heart with
His. Let us adore Him, praise Him; ask for graces for ourselves, for our parents, relatives and superiors, for the souls in purgatory. When we go to our studies, or to our work, let us offer our labors to God. In the morning let us beg of Him to bless all the actions of the day, as St. Paul tells us: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.” In this way we shall advance in virtue and acquire great treasures for heaven, and with good cause may it also be said of us: “He hath done all things well,” and God certainly will reward us for it, for let us remember what a welcome the servant received when he came back to the Master: “Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things I will place thee over many things.” Never let us act from other motives than the love and glory of God; not from vain glory, because that is pride, nor for our own pleasure, because that is selfishness and God does not reward in heaven such actions, though they may be glorious in the eyes of the world and monuments may be erected to commemorate them.
“Vainglory is a real pest,” says St. Thomas a Kempis.