Might provide some fodder for anyone preaching the historic lectionary...
Homily for Trinity XII
Can you put yourself just for a few minutes into the place of the deaf-mute
in today’s Gospel? Imagine what it would be like to live in a world where
there is no sound. You can SEE others talking, but you do not know what
they are doing. You can never tell another person why you’re crying or why
you’re happy. You can never ask “what’s going on? why are you acting the
way you are?” You can never hear nor speak the words “I love you.” Even
though you live surrounded by other people, you are locked up in a little
world all of your own. People who eat with you and who touch you, but whom
you can never really come to know.
When our God created the world and declared it “good” and “very good,” there
was one thing he saw later that was NOT good. Do you remember? He said:
“It is not good that the man should be alone.” Loneliness wasn’t good in
the beginning, and it never has been and it never will be. God did not
create a single human being to live locked up in a little world of their
own. He created each one of us for union and communion with Himself and
with each other. He created us to live together in love. In last week’s
reading when Cain cried out in bitterness to God at his punishment, what
rang behind his wail was the fear of the loneliness of the imposed exile.
The deaf-mute in today’s Gospel knew something of Cain’s misery, of his
exile. And don’t we know something of it too? For it is not only those who
are deaf and mute who know loneliness; who sometimes feel as though they are
looking at the world from the outside and are left alone on the sidelines.
The deaf-mute is not the only one who can be in a crowd and feel utterly
But look at what happened to the deaf-mute. Suddenly those who talked to
each other and who tried in vain to break through the walls of his isolation
were dragging him along. The Greek text seems to imply almost carrying him.
And he hasn’t got a clue about what is happening, but he can see from his
friend’s faces that they are excited. He wants to ask: “Why? What does it
mean?” But he can’t ask a thing.
And suddenly he sees these people that he lives with talking to a stranger,
they’re point to him. And the stranger walks up to him and takes his hand,
looks at him in a way that told him suddenly he was not alone. The stranger
takes him aside from the others. The stranger’s eyes never leave his as
this man gently pokes his fingers into his ears, as he spits and touches the
man’s tongue. He was breaking through the barrier of isolation; he was
saying to the deaf-mute: I’m here for you and I’m going to open your ears
and I’m going to loose your tongue. And then the stranger sighed and looked
up to heaven – “I’m praying for you because my heart is grieved that you
have to live in such loneliness. I’m praying that it comes to an end.” The
deaf-mute understands that he is no longer alone. And then the miracle.
As God’s Word at the beginning spoke all things into being and they were
good because they were united to Him and to one another, so God’s Word come
into our flesh, Jesus Christ, speaks and His speaking causes to be what He
says: “Ephphatha!” That is, “Open up!” And those were the first words
that the deaf-mute heard. We’re not told what he said in response, but I’ll
bet it was: “Wow! I heard that! You spoke to me! I heard what you said!”
And of course, he didn’t even realize at first the second part of the
miracle, that his tongue had been set free and he was speaking with clarity.
Jesus had broken through the walls of isolation and brought the man out of
his little prison of loneliness and into the joy of communion with Himself
and with all His followers. And this miracle happened because his friends
brought him to Jesus.
People loved by God, you see the point, don’t you? Our Lord Jesus came into
this world to bring us out of our lonely prisons and to bring us into joy –
the joy of communion with Him, His Father, the Holy Spirit and so of union
with one another. And how did He do it? By entering into the very
loneliness of exiled humanity. By going into the isolation into which Cain
was driven. By entering into all our deaf-muteness. You remember how he
cried from that horrible loneliness as He hung upon the cross: “My God, my
God, why have you forsaken me?” There is no place where you will have to go
that your Jesus has not gone and so no place where you find yourself where
He is not. He is there in our sufferings and even in our dying – “for this
reason He both died and was raised again that He might be Lord both of the
dead and of the living.”
Here in Christ’s Church, then, we’ve found a place where God’s Word has
opened our ears and our eyes and loosed our tongues for praise! Here we
live in a family where Words of forgiveness, of absolution, are continually
spoken to free us from loneliness and give us a life lived together, where
the burdens and the joys are shared, where we taste week after week heaven
on earth, where there’s REAL LIFE.
And our Jesus sends us out - the baptized - out from this place into a world
where loneliness reigns. Where ears are deaf to God’s voice and tongues are
tied to bitter complaining and arguing and every other kind of behavior that
ends up driving people apart and leaving hearts broken and lonely. Our Lord
Jesus sends us to do for others what that man’s friends did for him. To
bring them to Jesus. To bring them here to only One who can break through
and end all isolation and let HIM unite them to a family, a family that is
born from one womb, the baptismal font, and always growing and never
destroyed by death. A family that never stops gathering around one table to
eat together one holy food. A family that is God’s answer and God’s gift to
every loneliness of the human heart. Amen.