05 Aug Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
Today is the Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1882
“And they bring to Him one deaf and dumb, and they besought Him
that He wouls lay His hands upon him.”–Mark 7, 32.
Those portions of the Gospels which are read to the faithful in the course of the ecclesiastical year seem to be selected, it might almost be said, at random from the Sacred Scriptures. To the preacher, also, whose duty it is to discourse, year after year, from those fragments, it might at first sight appear difficult to make a practical application of this or that Gospel to the spiritual wants of his hearers. This, however, is not so; for, as each Gospel is in turn presented for the instruction of the faithful, it will become more evident that the Word of God is a manna which contains the most varied and delicious tastes, and, moreover, that it impresses the mind as being the ever new and yet immutable truth of the word of Him Whom St. Augustine addressed as “Beauty always ancient yet ever new.”
Indeed, if the preacher were every year to direct the attention of his hearers to the same important point of doctrine, it would be, even to the very same congregation, most interesting as well as instructive, since every word of the Gospel is intimately connected with the great work of redemption; for instance, the lesson for this Sunday tells us how Christ vouchsafed to heal the deaf and dumb man.
Let its consider how deaf the human race has ever been to the Word of God, and whatever relates to their salvation.
Mary, whose heart was ever open to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, obtain for us the same readiness to receive the admonitions of the Spirit of Love and Truth! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!
If there is any thing which should call forth our astonishment, it is this spiritual deafness of the human race, both individually and collectively, and the incredible indifference manifested in regard to all that God has revealed concerning our existence and eternal destination–the fall of man, his redemption, and that eternity which draws nearer each day. This disposition was manifest even in paradise, before the fall, and afterwards developed itself to such an enormous extent as to justify the assertion, that after our first parents had yielded to the seductions of Satan, their whole posterity became afflicted with this voluntary deafness.
As I have already said, this disposition was perceptible when the fidelity of our first parents was put to the test, for they seemed to give a more ready ear to the seducing wiles of the tempter than to the warning voice of God. Yes, it would seem that our first mother found something far more attractive in the alluring voice of the devil, and the delicious taste of the fruit, than in the exercise of the obedience which she owed to her Maker and Sovereign Lord. His divine command was unheeded and despised at the intimations of greatness conveyed by the serpent: “You shall be as gods.”
Adam and Eve fell, and, with them, the race of man became subject to sin and death. But God, in His mercy, decreed that His well-beloved Son should redeem and save the souls created for eternal happiness.
But, alas! Cain, the first-born of the human kind, closed his heart to the inspirations of divine grace, and stained the earth with his brother's blood! And in every age of the world so many, many souls have been found to follow in his footsteps, that, as time wore on, the human race became more and more deaf to the voice of God, and its ways seemed perverted to the ways of iniquity.
Noah, for a hundred years, spoke in terms of entreaty, as well as warning; but his words fell upon ears which refused to heed. He built the ark amid the jeers and mockery of those who looked on in scorn; and, even after the deluge, how soon did heathenism stifle the voice of conscience, and close the ears of the soul!
Almighty God set apart for Himself a nation, through which the whole human family might receive warning and instruction, and be prepared for that wonderful and much-desired event the birth of the Redeemer of the world.
Yet how did the world behave towards this people? We need only look at Pharao. Moses spoke to him, threatening him in the name of the Lord. He listened, yet heard not, for he was obdurate. Again, Moses appeared, and spoke in terms of terrible warning to the wicked king. God sends him various punishments; noxious insects of every kind infest the land, and cause fearful destruction; the waters change into blood; the light of the sun is darkened; the destroying angel spares not the first-born of the Egyptians; and, nevertheless, the hearts of Pharao and his people remained closed to the voice of God. Hearing it exteriorly, they despised it interiorly, until the Lord stretches forth his avenging arm, and the waters of the Red Sea engulf that rebellious host in their terrible depths.
And even in regard to the chosen people of God, was not their spiritual deafness astonishing and deplorable? Amid the thunder's roll and the lightning's flash the Israelites listen as the commands of God are proclaimed; but even while they listen they turn away unheeding, and, in spite of the wonders they witness, pay homage to a golden calf. God sends them a succession of prophets, and they put them all to death.
Christ Himself appears. He speaks, He, the Incarnate Wisdom of God. The people throng around Him; but that class of priests, so wise in their own estimation, yet so totally depraved, the scribes and Pharisees, cry out in tones of scorn: “Which of us hears Him?”
Ascending to heaven, Christ sends His Apostles to announce to all mankind the word of salvation. The Holy Ghost, the promised Paraclete, appears in the form of fiery tongues, above their heads; and, taking in the utmost boundaries of the earth, they proclaim to all men the Word of God.
But St. Paul has told of the results, as he himself experienced them, when, at Athens, he publicly addressed the inhabitants of that world-renowned city. Some laughed in derision, some promised to listen at a future time, which never came for them; and the other Apostles, as they went their ways to the nations of the earth, too often met with the same discouraging results. Oh, how sad, my brethren, when we reflect that this deplorable indifference still characterizes the children of Adam, even after the Gospel has been preached, and the Church spread over the whole earth, and its holiness proved by the most wonderful effects and astonishing miracles.
Even today, and in this so-called age of enlightenment and culture, in this our nineteenth century, how fearfully indifferent are not men to the truths which the Word of God teaches, about their spiritual duties, their ultimate destination, and the momentous affair of their eternal salvation! This inattention and indifference is so much the more surprising because it presents such a striking contrast to the manner in which men generally act when they are told of something; which, by performing certain duties, or fulfilling certain conditions, they can gain, and by which they can greatly promote their temporal interests. Ah, yes! They eagerly hasten to that spot in some far-off land, where they are told that the bright gold lies buried deep in the soil, waiting only to enrich him who is so fortunate as to find it. They even brave the perils of the mighty deep, uncertain whether they will ever safely reach the shore. The same is true of honors and dignities. Observe the different aspirants to a throne; with what anxiety they watch the various political changes, fearing to lose the slightest chance of turning them to their advantage.
It is ever the same, beloved in Christ. Look at the sick. If they are told of some eminent physician or celebrated remedy, they will inquire into or send in quest of the same; they are all anxiety, and leave nothing undone to regain their health. The mechanic is ever on the alert to hear of new inventions; the merchant watches every opportunity to buy and sell to advantage; the man of wealth knows no rest, for, day and night, he is seeking to add to his store, or, hearing of a probable panic, he rushes to the spot where he can learn the truth, and try to avert the worst.
And, by means of God's Holy Word, man is told of the joys of heaven, the glory therein, and of the terrible and eternal torments which are prepared for sinners in hell. It penetrates the ears of the body, but the spiritual hearing is gone. The human race goes recklessly on, living in a state of indifference as if wholly unconcerned for the future. Alas! Christians–Catholics–are no better, if they were only aware of it! They act as did the Jews, when St. Stephen preached to them: “They stopped their ears;” that is, they resolutely avoid attending service at those hours, when they would be reminded of their duties to God; or, when they are present, they attend not to the word of salvation, even if they hear it exteriorly. O folly! folly! To seek after the transitory joys and honors of earth in preference to listening to the Divine Word; to plunge, perhaps, into the vilest dissipations, rather than mortify their passions; to listen to the voice of the worldling or infidel, yet to close their hearts against the warning voice of God's minister, who seeks to win souls for Christ.
O Lord, preserve us from the evil of willful deafness of the soul; for, when it becomes chronic, all hope of salvation is over forever! Amen!
“And they bring to Him one deaf and dumb; and they besought Him that He would lay His hand upon him.” Mark 7, 32.
I considered with you, most beloved in Christ, when the Gospel of this Sunday was read for you last year, the lamentable indifference of mankind in general to the sublime truths and terrible warnings of our holy faith and its Divine Founder, and how, since the fall, man seems as though stricken with a spiritual deafness, which prevents him hearing the word of God!
And if he does hear it, he listens, as it were, against his will, not only paying no attention to what would show him the way to happiness; but going so far as to despise and deny it. We have also reflected upon the eagerness with which he seeks after all that he deems best for his temporal welfare, and the readiness with which he believes all that he hears on the subject. In truth, it would seem as if, in his corrupted state, he found more pleasure in falsehood than in truth! Far different from holy David, who cried out: “The wicked have told me fables; but not as Thy law. All Thy statutes are truth, and therefore a light to guide my feet to heaven!”
If this strike you, as it surely must, as a miserable condition, scarcely less so is the state of those Christians who hear and believe, but live, notwithstanding, such lukewarm and tepid lives, as to give the impression that they care nothing for what they hear and believe.
But neither of these classes of deaf-mutes need despair of being healed; for there are ample means to effect their restoration, and these, with the Divine assistance, I will point out to you today.
Mary, spouse of the Holy Ghost, obtain for us, from that Spirit of Love, a perfect willingness to hear and obey the voice of God! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!
Last year I also dwelt on the pitiable, and, indeed, most culpable, state into which this indifference to hearing that Divine voice has cast the human race. As it existed in ages past, it prevails at the present time, a truth which was brought particularly home to me, when, recently, I was explaining to a Protestant, who was extremely obstinate in her own opinion, that there is but one Church, one true Church, and how it could be no other than that which has existed for over eighteen hundred years that was founded by Christ when He lived among men. In the very beginning this Protestant assured me that, say what I might, she would not be convinced; that she would retain the form of belief she had always professed, even though she knew that every word of my argument would be true!
While I spoke, the lady allowed her gaze to wander constantly, as if to assure me of her inattention, as well as to banish from her mind every thought that might have touched her heart or shown her the truth.
When, in conclusion, I asked her: “Now, what do you say? Am I not right?” she replied, with the utmost indifference: “It may be that you are; I was not listening to you; for I intend to remain what I am.”
I once met a soldier, dying in an hospital in Galicia, and endeavored to lead him to believe in and embrace our holy faith. In the very face of death, his reply was: “It is useless, priest; even if God Himself were to stand before me, with the terrible assurance that if I refused to become a Catholic I would this very day be plunged into the abyss of hell; rather would I go to perdition than become a member of the faith you profess!”
But praise and thanks to our merciful Lord, all heretics and infidels do not so willfully harden their hearts against the truth! But still the spiritual deafness, so universally prevailing, is most deplorable.
What is equally, if not more lamentable, is, that even among the children of the true Church, there exists a tepidity and indifference, which is alike sad, and astonishing. I include also those Catholics who certainly hear and believe the word of God; but seem content that their days should pass on in this spirit of tepidity, perfectly indifferent about leading a holy life, but content if they barely fulfill their religious duties. They strive not after Christian perfection; neither do they hunger and thirst after justice!
This indifference, when displayed by those who have not heard the Divine Word, and who, therefore, neither believe nor concern themselves about it, is some what to be wondered at; but how difficult it is to comprehend that a Christian, who really believes the Divine truths of faith, and what they inculcate about our salvation, the imitation of Christ and His saints, and that eternity which most certainly awaits us–who admits that there is a judgment he can not escape, a purgatory which perhaps holds those he has given bad example, a heaven and hell to reward or to punish–who, in fine, would be willing to give up every thing, even life itself, for his faith, can yet remain wholly absorbed in the interests of earth, making but little preparation for death!
But as I said, there is a remedy for this insensibility, this spiritual deafness. We shall find this remedy if we reflect on the manner in which Christ cured the deaf-mute of today's Gospel.
He took him aside. What is signified by this? Our Lord wished to show that the principal cause of spiritual deafness, and moral indifference, is found in the influence which the example of, and intercourse with others exert upon the lives of those afflicted there with. Jews and heathens, heretics and infidels, reproduce in their thoughts, and imitate in their actions, whatever they see and hear! The same is true of indifferent and lukewarm Christians. They verify the adage: “Show me your company, and I will tell you what you are!”
Therefore, that your spiritual deafness may be healed, you must not live with the crowd, nor follow the crowd, but retire and meditate earnestly and often, for with justice has the Prophet Jeremias declared : “With desolation is all the land made desolate, because there is none that considereth in his heart.” The world is filled with wickedness, infidelity, want of faith, impiety and indifference to supernatural things, because “no one thinketh in the heart.” O Christian, retire into yourself, examine your own heart, listen to the word of God, understand it, and it will exercise a most decisive influence upon your life!
Christ put His finger into the ears of the deaf and dumb man. What signifies this? It admonishes us, that if we take an interest in the conversion of sinners to a holy life, or of heretics to the one true faith, we should not make use of lengthy arguments and abstruse explanations to lead them to the path of right and truth; for plain reasons, based on admitted truths, and confirmed by experience, have most weight.
For heretics and infidels, the consideration of the following truths would be most beneficial: There is but one God and Creator; as a rational being, I am immortal; therefore, between God and me there exists a relation which is called Religion, and which is founded upon the revelation of God to man, since reason alone, and of itself, is not explicit concerning the consequences of that relationship. Christ was the first teacher of this divinely revealed religion, and after Him, by His own appointment, the Apostles and their successors–the bishops and priests of the Church. This Church, founded by Him, is the Catholic Church, which is therefore the only true one, and, the only one in which salvation can be found. If those who are separated from the fold of Christ, either by infidelity or some perverted form of religion, show themselves inclined to enter her fold, it is unwise to lose time in lengthy discussions; but go to meet them, rather, with outstretched arms. Show them the truth in all its sublimity, and pray earnestly to God that He may bless your efforts for Christ's dear sake.
The same means should be adopted with great sinners, whom some faithful child of the Church wishes to lead gently to God. They should be urged to consider the great contrast between their mode of life and their faith, and the imminent danger to which they expose their eternal salvation if they refuse to live consistently with their belief.
“And spitting, Christ touched His tongue.” The spittle signifies the littleness of all the frail and fleeting goods of earth, and of the empty pleasures of this mortal life. The exaggerated estimate of earthly riches and enjoyments is precisely what stands in the way of a true conversion to a zealous and pious life–a life in perfect accord with the teachings of holy faith.
Christ looked up to heaven and prayed. This admonishes us to direct our thoughts to heaven, and to excite in our hearts the desire for that happy home. It should also strengthen us to labor with the greatest zeal in the service of God, to deem no effort too great to do His holy will.
We should implore God to have mercy on us, and bring us at last to eternal bliss! If we act thus, we will hear the word of God, such as it is. We will live according to its precepts, rendering to God honor for time and eternity, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen!
“And the string of his tongue was loosed; and he spoke right.” Mark 7, 35.
The afflicted man, of whom we read in this day's Gospel that he was made whole, suffered from a twofold evil: he was afflicted with deafness, and in consequence lost the power of speech. But when the deafness disappeared under the ministrations of the Son of God, he spoke, and “spoke right.” We can here make not only a close but a most important application of this man's double infirmity and of his cure to the spiritual condition of humanity, considered both as a body and individually, and to the remedy that is required by their state.
We have already considered how prone human nature is to turn a deaf ear when the Word of God is announced, and lamented the astonishing indifference to the truths of holy faith which prevails in our day. Those who have the happiness of belonging to the one true Church may be counted by millions; but a large proportion of them pay no regard to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, and, instead of being an honor, they are at once a scandal and a grief to her. Thus, such Christians not only remain deaf but become dumb also, and speak not when and where, and as they should.
Christ first healed the deafness of the afflicted man–“faith comes from hearing”–then He loosened the string of his tongue, whereupon he spoke, and “spoke right.”
Let us consider what this dumbness typifies in regard to the human race–first as a body, then individually ascertaining thus the meaning of the words: “And he spoke right.”
O Mary, who, having heard and believed, didst entone that sublime canticle before the Lord on Judea's heights, teach us, thy children, ever to speak when we should, and in the manner most pleasing to God! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!
The votaries of the world care neither for God nor for their own salvation. They receive the Word of God exteriorly, and seem to listen to it, but heeding it not they remain spiritually deaf; and it is a fact, that heretics and schismatics, Pagans and Jews, Protestants and faithless Catholics, suffer alike from this deplorable evil.
Not less remarkable is the silence of man with regard to God! The world is dumb! From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, from the earliest dawn of day until the shades of night have fallen over the world, often from eventide until the midnight hour has tolled, what a ceaseless hum of conversation is heard over all the world. Every subject is discussed with never-flagging interest, save one, and that is, God. What a profound silence is maintained upon that one theme, alike so terrible and so sweet.
“Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?” should be the thought of every soul at earliest dawn; but few there are who ask the question even once, and yet our tongues should serve as means of praising God; daily and hourly should we praise and thank Him, pay Him our homage, and implore Him to bestow His grace upon us in the hour of need. And yet how many there are who allow the years to come and go, and utter not one prayer nor word of praise to Him! They are dumb.
And it is not that they are wanting in ideas or words. They can speak of whatever is grand, beautiful, and sublime in the order of creation, which they see and admire. They are eloquent in their praise of the great progress in science, the works of the learned, and are proud of knowing the authors. They delight in having read the most famous books, deeming it necessary to at least pretend to a classical education. They must see and converse upon the noted productions of art, and know the names of the artists to admire or condemn as they wish. They make the tour of the world, extol the beauties of nature, even explore the mysteries of the firmament, and call the stars by name. They dispute about the astronomer who discovered them first, and pretend to have arrived at a knowledge of the fundamental laws of nature.
They extol the goodness of men, their generosity and heroism, their benignity, prudence, and ability. They speak of prominent politicians, of the royal and great personages of this world; they forget not relations and friends, especially if their position be good; they recall with love and gratitude those benefactors to whom they owe much. But on one subject they are silent. There is a silence, death-like and inexplicable, in regard to that God in Whom are embodied the most admirable attributes infinite holiness, goodness, and majesty. He it is Who is the first great cause, not only of all the grandeur and magnificence in nature, of which men are so loud in their praise, but of all the wondrous achievements of mankind, for who, but the Creator, bestowed on the work of His hands those powers which render man great?
One discovers a new force in nature, and is lauded by the whole world; yet he only accidentally came to its knowledge; not he, but God, laid it in nature's bosom. About Him, the author of all power, not a word is heard.
There is a man who has made the tour of the world, and sent forth a volume on the wonders he saw, the glories of the firmament, and the beauties which render this earth so fair. His description is brilliant, his book is much sought after, but not one of its pages pays tribute to the Creator of heaven and earth; not one word is found therein in praise of the Lord. Nay, search from beginning to end, and, perhaps, you will fail to find even His name.
In the same way does the world remain dumb about the propagation of God's kingdom on earth. Administrators of public affairs deem themselves wonderfully wise in proclaiming aloud: “Believe what you wish, act as you think best with regard to God and religion, keep the commandments of God if you please or keep them not; but woe unto you if you violate a law of the State.” And, my brethren, at all legislative or political assemblies where the most able men of the State come together to deliberate or make laws, where debates and discussions are the order of the day, not only is there not one word spoken about God, but were His most holy name to be mentioned, surprise, or even disdain, would be read in the expression of all. This class of men may well be called deaf and dumb with regard to their duties towards their Creator.
In how many families do we not find one or more suffering from these spiritual evils! They are both deaf and dumb when there is question of fulfilling what is commanded by the Church. How many parents are thus afflicted? Deaf and dumb! Poor parents, who care not, as they should, to know and fulfill the divine will; who do not provide books for their children which will foster in their youthful minds a love of piety, and a longing after all that is good!
Perhaps, through their fault, those children will remain also through life deaf and dumb. Poor children! Allowed to grow up with scarce any instruction about God, or the means of attaining eternal bliss, they hear naught of His holy name except when it is profaned. Their parents are silent! They see the children–who have been given them by God–walking on the road to perdition, urged on, perhaps, by their evil example, yet they are dumb! Nay, perhaps they even say, “they are old enough to act as they please;” or, “what else can one expect from their youth? By and by they will do better!”
It may be a wife, it may be a husband, who is afflicted. Growing careless in the discharge of every religious duty, the erring party pursues the downward path, without a word of remonstrance from the other, whose duty it is to speak, but who is dumb. There is a couple who have contracted a mixed marriage. The Catholic husband or wife, as the case may be, makes not the slightest effort to sanctify the unbelieving partner, but remains willfully and culpably silent. Perhaps the heart of that unconverted one is ready to receive the Word of God, and to be at once a consolation and a joy to the sacred Heart of our Lord, but for that criminal silence, that terrible spiritual dumbness!
Or, perhaps, alas! most beloved in Christ, when the greater number of Christians, Catholics, whom the loving Saviour invites to be models for the rest of the world, do open their lips, it may be that they do not speak right, that they injure rather than promote the interests of God's kingdom on earth, because their discourse is a curse, their conversation an oath.
It may be that they advocate the cause of the wicked; it may be that, forgetting the faith of their fathers, and faithless to all that it enjoins, they go even so far as to profess infidelity; that they boast of their hatred to others, and the revenge they will take, or project new methods of offending a God Who will not be mocked. They do not speak right.
Therefore, O Lord! open for thy faithless children the ears of their souls that they may hear Thy Word, and, doing it, open their lips only to declare Thy praise! Amen!
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff