05 September 2015

LACKING COMMUNICATION AND COMMUNION IN A COMMUNICATION ERA

XXIII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
isaiah 35:4-7a; james 2:1-5; mark 7:31-37

in ancient greece, it was customary for hawkers to cry out: «what do you lack?» to let people know they were in the vicinity. people would come out to see what the hawker was selling. it might be something they lacked and/or needed. 

what did the people of JESUS’ time lack?. 
throughout his ministry, JESUS pleaded with people to listen to his word. they lacked the ability to listen: the disciples couldn’t understand his teachings, the crowds wanted only wonders, his own people wouldn’t accept him, the religious leaders saw him as a threat. mark presents group after group with their spiritual lack.

what did the man in today’s gospel lack?
he «was deaf and had an impediment in his speech.» he couldn’t communicate his feelings/needs. he could do nothing for himself. 

JESUS took the man aside, away from the crowd. he spent time with him. he communicated with him through touch, a language he could understand,  and gave him back his ability to communicate. 

this is more than a wonderful healing story. 
first, there is a parallel between the deaf-mute and JESUS’ disciples. the man could neither hear nor speak; he needed healing. the disciples couldn’t understand JESUS’ message, and therefore couldn’t proclaim it; they, too, needed healing.
second, this healing indicates that the messianic age has dawned. it fulfils isaiah’s prophecy to the exiles (cf. first reading). 

what do we lack?
today, in a communication-filled age, we lack the ability to communicate: we hear but we do not listen, and fail to comprehend what people say; we speak but we seldom communicate. 
the great tragedy we face in a world of sophisticated communication: we have the faculties and the means but very little communication; we have hundreds of social-network friends but very few real life friends; we are experts in virtual communication but failures in personal communication and communion.

what must i do to restore communication and communion with people, especially my loved ones? will i allow the LORD to take me aside from the multitude to touch me? will i spend time with my loved ones away from the crowds (of people and gadgets) and communicate in a language they understand?