Bottom line: Jesus desire that you come apart with him for a work of liberation.
We have a Gospel today that calls our attention - not just for the miracle, but the way Jesus accomplishes it.
He heals a deaf man, but not by a simple word or touch. He takes the man apart from the crowd, places his finger in the ears, touches his tongue with spittle, then groans inwardly saying, "Ephphatha - Be opened."
All this indicates that Jesus is doing more than an ordinary healing. He is performing a work of liberation.
In order to liberate the man, Jesus has to first take him apart from the crowd. Something similar has to happen for us.
Our mass culture - as we learned last week - is like a spider that casts a sticky web over us. Contemporary society operates on two assumptions: First, that existence is random, accidental. And, second, that being male or female has put in us urges that it is only natural to act on. The best you can do, according to our culture, is to protect yourself from diseases and unwanted consequences, such as having a child.
Blessed Pope John Paul speaks about this as the culture of death. Jesus wants to liberate us from it. He knows that our existence has a purpose, that you and I aren't created at random, but by a plan. And that God created us male and female for a purpose. To realize that purpose, Jesus has to break through the spell, the web that culture of death has cast over us.
Jesus wants to liberate us, but we have to do something in turn. I'd like to put it in the form of a "New Year's Resolution." The beginning of a new school year, for many of us, is the start of a new year. I ask you to make a resolution to set aside time each day, alone with Jesus. One of our young pastor's, Fr. Kurt Nagel, asks his parishioners to commit themselves to at least 20 minutes a day of quiet prayer. Can you do that?
To liberate someone Jesus needs that person's collaboration. We're not talking about something simple and sweet. No, prayer involves us in a spiritual battle. Notice that, before healing the man, Jesus groans deeply. That's a sign of struggle. To perform a work of liberation Jesus needs our full attention. Can you give him 20 minutes of your day?
Jesus particularly desires to liberate young people. He wants you to know that you didn't arrive here by accident. On the contrary, you are loved - deeply loved. God has given a destiny no one else can fulfill - but it will involve a battle. And the ancient enemy has a new weapon - the culture of death. He will throw anything he can against you - to keep you from your purpose.
The culture of death causes young men to avoid commitment, responsibility.* And it encourages young women to use their femininity to feel desired, needed.
A guy might say, "I'm doing OK. I've got plans to study and get a job. What's the big deal if play video games and hang out with my buddies? Why should I take on a bunch of hassles?"
And a young woman might say, "I like being in control.** Why should I go back to old restrictions?"
Well, Jesus does not want to restrict anyone. Just the opposite - he wants to open up new possibilities. Think about the deaf man. He had never heard sounds so he did not know what he was missing. But when Jesus takes him apart and performs that work of liberation, all of a sudden he hears the voices of animals and children. For the first time, he hears the sound of wind, water, music, songs and stories. And above all he hears a wonderful voice. So precious is that voice that the man forever remembers the first word - Ephphatha, be opened.
Jesus liberated the man. The capacity to hear and to speak gave him a new horizon. He could relate to others - and to God - in a new way. He could now listen to others and speak to them.*** And to praise God with his lips.
As he did for the deaf man, Jesus wants to do for us - to open a world of meaning and purpose. Especially for our young people, he wants to free you from the culture of death. He wants you to realize the meaning of your masculinity or femininity: the power to make a total gift to the other and by that gift open yourself to life.
We want Jesus' liberation for our young people - and we older folk also need healing. Like the people in today's Gospel, we know that only Jesus can give real freedom.
Jesus wants you and me to come apart from the crowd, from our poisonous culture. Give him your full attention - 20 minutes a day. Allow Jesus to place his finger in your ear and to touch your tongue. To perform a work of liberation. Ephphatha. Be opened. Amen.
*A study showed that the average American boy spends 13 hours a week on video games - not including the time spent on TV and suffering the internet. Those addictions often become deep rooted and continue into adulthood.
**Regarding this "control" I encourage you to read Adam and Eve After the Pill - Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt. Here is what Dr. Raymond Dennehy from the University of San Francisco says about the book:
"If you want to learn what the Pill and the ensuing sexual revolution really accomplished, you must read Adam and Eve After the Pill. Of course, neo-Malthusians talk up the Pill's benefits: the freedom from having children made it possible for women to pursue serious careers and in the process offered men a new kind of freedom, too. But as Eberstadt writes, how about the increasing unhappiness of women despite their liberation from the chores of raising children? Or husbands' loss of interest in their wives and the corresponding increase in male pornography addiction? Not to be ignored, either, is the effect of the sexual revolution on college campuses by date rapes, hookups, and binge drinking, all of which directly flow from the sexual revolution mandate that women must be sexually available."
***Periodic continence (NFP) requires communication. Whether the couple desires to achieve or postpone the conception of a child, they must communicate with each. Contraception requires little or no communication. How many guys simply assume that young women have "taken care of all that"? That the woman must make herself "available"?
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