Sunday, 16 September 2018



In last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus instructed the deaf mute, whom He’d just cured, not to tell anyone about this miracle.  Although this was a sign of the dawning of the Messianic again Jesus realised that this news would lead to the nature of His mission being completely misunderstood.   Already people had begun to speculate about His identity as they heard Him preach with authority and saw Him cure the sick.   Some thought He was a threat to the established religion, others considered Him to be an upstart, while others were filled with wonder.          
So, with all this speculation, it’s not surprising that Jesus should ask His disciples what people made of Him.   Some, they said, thought He was John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the prophets, returned from the dead.  But then Jesus asked the disciples who they thought He was.   This question sought much more than a name or label, which even His enemies could have given.   Jesus wanted to know what He meant to them. What does He mean to you and me?  Peter replied that Jesus was the Christ –the Messiah.  That was a wonderful insight, which according to Matthew’s Gospel, must have been divinely revealed.     
Surprisingly, Jesus instructed Peter to keep this insight to himself.   Why?  Well, Jesus was about to explain to His disciples what being the Christ really meant.   He was to fulfil the role of Isaiah’s Servant of the Lord who would achieve God’s salvation through His suffering.     More precisely, Jesus told them that He would be rejected and executed, but would then rise from the dead.   That was not the kind of Messiah Peter wanted. So, out of misguided love for Jesus he tried to protect Him from the fate He had prophesied for Himself.   Peter had used the right title of ‘Christ’ with which Mark introduced his Gospel, but Peter completely misunderstood its true meaning, which would only become clear in the light of the resurrection.  In trying to protect Jesus from Himself He had become a real temptation, threatening His mission.   Jesus’ intimate friend, who had just rightly identified Him as the ‘Christ’ now became His most insidious enemy from within.   That’s why Jesus rebuke Peter with the harshest words in the Gospel: 
'Get behind me Satan! (or 'tempter').  Because the way you think is not God’s but man’s.’
Jesus then told the people and the disciples that if they wanted to be His followers they must renounce themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. 
So, today’s Gospel starts by removing misunderstandings about Christ’s identity and mission, and concludes by defining our identity in relation to Jesus.  He asks each one of us, "Who do you think I am; what do I mean to you?” For each of us there’s the temptation to cast Him, and our relationship with Him, in a mould of our own designing.   It would be so much more comfortable for us to have a cosy undemanding relationship with Jesus, one which didn’t challenge our sense of values and the way we live.  But, like Peter, we must learn to accept and welcome Jesus on  His own terms.  Like Peter, we must allow Jesus to lead us to the glory of the resurrection, by way of the cross.   For Jesus, Peter and for us there’s no gain without pain.
Isidore O.P.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018


Jesus Cures Deaf and Dumb Man 

My niece, Clare, was born profoundly deaf.   Her inability to hear meant that she couldn’t pick up the sound of people speaking to her.    She couldn’t imitate their speech and, so, learn to talk.  Her deafness resulted in her being dumb. Until the problem was diagnoses she was thought to be mentally retarded –mentally dumb.  And her deafness meant that she couldn’t enjoy the pleasures which we take for granted –music, the sound of birds.  Nor could she hear danger signals –smoke alarms, the sound of traffic, warning shouts.  That made her especially vulnerable.  Anyone who is going deaf finds it difficult to follow and join in conversations.  Deafness can easily result in feeling isolated.
All this was true of the deaf man in today’s Gospel, who had a serious speech impediment.  Though he was unable to hear Jesus and ask for help, he was fortunate in having friends who brought him to the Lord and sought His help.  Jesus responded with great compassion.  Taking the man aside where he wouldn’t be embarrassed, He used the physical gestures of touching his ears and tongue.  These the man could appreciate.
At the command, ‘Be open’ the deaf and dumb man was able to hear and speak fluently.   Now that he could listen and talk the whole quality of his life improved.   This damaged, isolated, man had been made whole.  He could enjoy a conversation.   No wonder people exclaimed of Jesus, ‘He does all things well.’   If that echoes God’s comment on his work of creation we can see here Jesus beginning to repair that creation. 
But Christ’s work of re-creation goes much further than making us physically whole.  The healing miracles point to how Jesus restores us spiritually.  And so, today’s Gospel cures tell us that Jesus heals our deafness to God’s word.  He opens our minds and hearts so that we can hear God’s word, listen to it and follow it.   If we are prepared to heed God we will find that he enriches our lives.   Jesus has come to give us the fullness of life.  
And hearing the word of God enables us to communicate it.  Firstly, with God himself in the dialogue of prayer.    And then with each other as we share our faith.   We will find that explaining our faith and listening to others will deepen our understanding and commitment.   Our lives will be enriched by this dialogue of faith.  
Jesus has come to heal our damaged lives –to make us physically and spiritually whole.   By healing the deaf and dumb He fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah and proclaims that the messianic age has dawned.   That work of healing will only be completed when we are raised to the glory of the resurrection.
Isidore O.P.