The Deaf Mute in All of Us.
The Memorial of Saint Scholastica, Virgin.*
Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Genesis 3: 1-8.
• Psalm 32: 1-2, 5-7.
• Mark 7: 31-37.
…or, from the proper:
• Song of Songs 8: 6-7.
• Psalm 148: 1-2, 11-14.
• Luke 10: 38-42.
…or, any lessons from the common of Virgins for One Virgin, or the common of Holy Men & Women for a Nun.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Scholastica, Virgin.
Lessons from the common Dilexísti… of a Virgin not a Martyr, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II Corinthians 10: 17-18; 11: 1-2.
• Psalm 44: 5, 15-16.
• Matthew 25: 1-13.
The First Friday of the Triodion; and, the Feast of the Holy Martyr Charalampas.**
Lessons from the triodion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• I John 3: 12-17.
• Mark 14: 3-9.
8:22 AM 2/10/2017 — It's wonderful to be back with you again after my time away. I've been assured that everything went well in my absence, and if they're just lying to me, that's fine, too, since I wouldn't want to know.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy, For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water… (Isaiah 35: 5-8 RSV).
That’s from the Prophecy of Isaiah, and, like most of the books of the prophets in the Old Testament, it’s about two-thirds poetry, and like most poetry it can be very difficult to comprehend. But this one is fairly easy: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped…” He’s prophesying about the coming of the Messiah. And that’s why Isaiah’s prophesy is in the Bible: the ears of the deaf were unstopped as we just read in the Holy Gospel.
The last time we looked at this Gospel lesson, which was on a Sunday a couple of years ago, I linked it to Isaiah’s Prophecy as a call to foster that forgotten virtue: the virtue of Hope. In my own examination of conscience I've sometimes found myself becoming increasingly impatient with people, even in the confessional, as they wring their hands over the current situation in the country, in the world, in the Church, as if they've never heard of this virtue. Of course, that's a failing on my part, as a confessor shouldn't be impatient with anyone; but, I'm as human as the next man, and I do get impatient. Has the world never been on the brink of global disaster? What was going on in the three years prior to World War I? Has the country never been in a state of moral decline? What do you call the “roaring twenties”? Have we never had popes who were not what a lot of pious people thought they should have been? Who were the Borgias? Who were the Medicis? Someone came to me not long ago—not in confession, otherwise I couldn't make mention of it—to complain about the current Pope saying disturbing things, and I pointed out, “Yeah, and Pope Gregory XVI condemned railroads, but the Church survived.” The Church always survives. Christ guarantees it.
Our Gospel lesson today is our Blessed Lord doing one of the things Isaiah predicts will mark the return of God: He restores hearing and speech to a deaf mute; and, we are well familiar with the other occasions where our Lord did the other things of which the Prophet speaks, giving sight to the blind and causing the lame to walk. We can look back almost three thousand years after Isaiah is dead and buried and see his words fulfilled in the miracles of our Lord; but, it is sobering to consider that, when our Lord performed these miracles, Isaiah had been dead already at least six hundred years, if not a thousand. When the Prophet told the Israelites to “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication…” (Isaiah 35: 4 NABRE), I'm sure that even those who believed him weren't expecting to have to wait a thousand years to see it happen.
Not long before he died, I had a conversation with Father Groeschel, who had been one of my professors in the seminary, and asked him if, in light of all the scandals involving the behavior of some priests, whether general respect for the Holy Priesthood would ever return to secular society; and he said, “Oh yes, it will come back, but not in our life-time.” We suffer from the handicap of being alive: our historical perspective begins on the day we're born, and we don't like to think about what's going to happen after we're gone. We judge the condition of affairs based on our own experience, but our own experience is not even a single life-time.
Ever watch Law and Order? Of course you have. Everybody has. We turn on an episode of Law and Order, and they all begin the same way: someone minding his own business stumbles upon a body, and before the hour is up, they've prosecuted the case. Less than an hour if you take out the commercials. But we can't possibly believe that a murder has been committed and the case brought to a conclusion in the course of an hour, because it's all make-believe. A few of us may be fortunate enough to see God begin something, a few of us may get to see God end something, most of us only get to see a small piece of it in process, but nobody gets to see the whole show. A Catholic should be someone who's able to think in centuries.
And this is where that ever-elusive virtue of Hope comes into play, and it's our Lord Himself who gives us the lesson on how to cope in those times when everything seems dark. You know, there is nothing in the Holy Gospels that's trivial; there is nothing written by the Evangelists that qualifies as what modern-day authors call “providing color.” Every detail of every scene in the life of our Blessed Lord means something; and, when the people of Decapolis bring to Him a man who can neither hear nor speak, what's the first thing our Lord does? Re-read the Gospel: “He took him off by himself away from the crowd” (Mark 7: 33 NABRE). Why take him away? Why must the two of them be alone? Why can't our Lord cure the poor man in front of everyone? He could if He wanted to, certainly; but, remember that everything our Lord says and everything our Lord does has a double meaning: He doesn't do something simply for the expediency of the moment, He does it for us as well. He takes this man away from everyone just as He desires to take us away so that we can be alone with Him in prayer.
Recall the story from the life of Saint John Vianney I’ve told you many times: he used to observe a man in his parish who would make a point of visiting the church every day, but only at a time when he knew the church would be empty. He would go in and kneel before the tabernacle for as long as he could before someone else came in, at which point he would leave. He never had a Rosary or a prayerbook with him, and his lips never moved in prayer. And one day the holy priest stopped him and asked him what he did when he knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, and the man replied, “I look at Him, and He looks at me.”
To be alone with our Lord. Some of us can't even stand to be alone with ourselves. We get into the car to go somewhere; what's the first thing we do? We turn on the radio, or we hit the hands-free whatever and call someone to talk. When we're at home doing the laundry or something, we always have the TV blaring in the background. If we can't stand to be alone with ourselves, how can be possibly be alone with God? And if we can't be alone with God, how can we ever find peace in prayer?
What's the next thing our Lord does? He puts His fingers into the man's ears, and with His own saliva touches his tongue. He's not doing this for some kind of dramatic effect; remember, there's no one there to see it. And it surprises me how many people are not able to recognize these actions. Ever attended the baptism of an infant? The priest touches the baby's ears and blows on his lips, and says, “May the Lord Jesus, who made the deaf hear and the dumb speak, grant that at the proper time you may hear His word and proclaim the Faith.” And here we see, in this cure, an image of how our Lord acts in our own souls: it's through the sacraments of the Church that Christ frees us from sin, opens our ears to hear the Word of God, loosens our tongues to praise and proclaim the Faith. Saint Augustine, commenting on this passage, says that the tongue of someone united to God “will speak of the Good, will bring to agreement those who are divided, will console those who weep. God will be praised, Christ will be announced” (Sermon 311, 11). A far cry from the hand-wringing that so often marks our internal turmoil during times of trial and personal struggle.
There is a deafness of soul which is worse than that of the body, since no one is more deaf that he who does not want to hear. There are many who have their ears closed to the Word of God, and many, too, who become more and more insensitive to the innumerable invitations of grace. And they don't hear for primarily two reasons: they never allow themselves to be alone with God in prayer, and they neglect the sacraments. Oh, they may pray, and pray a lot; but, their prayers are always asking God for something. They never stop in silence to simply listen. They neglect the confessional, they neglect Holy Mass, and they receive Holy Communion automatically without any thought, without any examination of conscience, and without pausing after Mass to make a proper thanksgiving. Is it no surprise, then, that they look at the world, at the country, at the Church, and find themselves disturbed and with no hope?
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy, For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water….
The Israelites had no way of knowing that they weren't going to see these things happen in their life-time; but, the message of the Prophet was that that shouldn't matter. Our job during our brief time in this life is to work out our salvation, not to solve the world's problems. So what if the world is exploding around us? So what if the country is going down the tubes? So what if we don't like the Pope? So what? What does that have to do with what we need to do to get into heaven?
* The twin sister of St. Benedict and the foundress of the Benedictine nuns died at Monte Cassino in 543, and was interred in the same grave with her brother. Most of what we know of her comes from the Dialogues of Pope St. Gregory the Great, who wrote, "…so death did not separate the bodies of these two, whose minds had ever been united in the Lord."
** The Churches of the Byzantine Rite observe a pre-Lenten season known as the Triodion, lasting for four weeks; it is sometimes preceded by a Sunday “before the Triodion,” as determined by the date of Easter. The first few Sundays of this season are thematic, taken from the Gospel of the day, from which each Sunday gets it’s name. The Sunday before the Triodion is known as the Sunday of Zacchaeus, the First Sunday that of the Publican and Pharisee, and the Second that of the Prodigal Son. The last two Sundays are named after the specific food items which may be eaten during the weekdays prior to them, as the fasting discipline of Lent is gradually imposed: the Sunday of Meatfare and the Sunday of Cheesefare. The day following Cheesefare Sunday is the First Day of the Great Fast, there being no tradition of an "Ash Wednesday."
The extraordinary form of the Roman Rite observes a pre-Lenten period lasting for three weeks, known as the Septuagesima Season, consisting of Septuagesima Sunday, Sexagesima Sunday and Quinquagesima Sunday. In English speaking countries, this season is sometimes called “Shrovetide,” because it ends on the day before Ash Wednesday, which is often called “Shove Tuesday.”
A pre-Lenten season is also preserved in some of the more traditional branches of the Anglican and Lutheran communions, making the ordinary form of the Roman Rite the only major liturgical Tradition to have completely eliminated it; ironic since the liturgical reforms following the Second Vatican Council were said to have been done for largely ecumenical reasons.
Charalampus, a bishop, was martyred during the reign of Emperor Septimus Severus (193-211).