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Twenty Third Sunday of Year B

Sunday, 6 September, 2015
Mark 7:31-37

What is said clearly is not always heard clearly. Every message is filtered as it is being received. How it is actually received depends on what is happening in the listener. In the gospel of St. Mark the miracles performed by Jesus reveal who he is, they point to his identity. The prophet Isaiah had said that with the coming of the Messiah the blind would see, the lame would walk, lepers would be cleansed, the deaf would hear and the dead would be raised to life. Jesus worked miracles in all of those areas. Peter was the first to put the clues together and identify Jesus as the promised Messiah. Others did have the same experience as Peter but they missed the deeper meaning of events. The capacity of the disciples to hear clearly and interpret accurately was inhibited by factors such as fears, expectations, prejudice, anxiety and spiritual blindness. When Jesus spoke of going up to Jerusalem and facing suffering there, the disciples could not cope with the prospect. Fear of suffering and the very basic need to avoid harm and injury were so strong that what Jesus said clearly three times did not sink in. The frightened hearers blocked out the message. When Jesus summed up his life in terms of service and self-giving, his words made little impact. Even his closest companions did not understand him. The gospel recounts how the sons of Zebedee aspired to the first places in the Kingdom. In minds where ambition for status held sway, the call to humble service didn’t get much of a hearing. It’s quite a journey from hearing what we want to wanting what we hear. Like the first disciples, we develop ways of evading what we find seriously challenging, of shutting out what threatens or disturbs, of sidestepping what makes demands. By giving us hearts that are more free to listen Jesus opens our ears to hear.

What makes Jesus an outstanding listener is that freedom of heart which is evident in his prayer and in all his relationships. He was not afraid to listen. He gave full attention to the pleas of those in need, even when they made great demands. He listened patiently to those who criticised him; he conversed with Judas who betrayed him and with the apostles who failed him. From him we can learn that the greatest gift we give to another is our full attention. That quality listening requires detachment, a freedom to focus on another and recognize that their story is every bit as important as our own.

‘To listen to Christ and obey his voice …… is the only way to the fullness of joy and love.’ (Benedict XVI). At our baptism the celebrant touched our ears and said, ‘The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word and your mouth to proclaim his faith.’ When his touch becomes effective, when we listen to him and let him lead us, we are on the way to the fullness of joy and love.



For prayer: 

Are there areas in my life where God is giving me more freedom to welcome his word ?
What holds me back from giving full attention to God and to others ?
Are there times when I find that I’m afraid to take the risk of listening ?