Both the first reading from the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel from Mark present vivid pictures of human flourishing. Blockages in the natural order are opened up by a mightier power: streams burst forth in the desert and the ears of the man are opened. This comes from a “power beyond” us. “Here is your God,” indeed!
Jesus removes obstacles. He fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah: streams burst forth in the desert. Life returns. Scripture scholars tell us that when Christ gave hearing and speech back to the man in today’s Gospel, it was “tantamount to giving him back his very self.” The man remembers who he is. The man runs and leaps for joy. And who can blame him. We rejoice for him and with him. He was deaf, but now he hears. We say that we are “hearers of the Word.” He hears the Word of God himself directly, and at the end of the story he proclaims the Word to all. He becomes an evangelist. It’s like, “I was blind but now I see.”
Have any of us experienced anything like that? Perhaps a person overcoming a life-threatening illness has. Or overcoming an addiction, say, or any personal problem. It’s new life. A more profound question is: how do we as disciples of Christ, as his agents, open the ears of the deaf or the eyes of the blind? People may be shy to admit it, but an obvious example is parents. Parents help their children by discipline and encouragement to discover who they are and to become the best they can be. A father of this parish told me on Friday evening how he sat his two boys done to talk with them about their futures just as his dad had done. He himself had underestimated himself and his gifts, and his dad pointed the way to something much better. Is this not giving someone a life? They forgive their children when they make mistakes. It’s giving them a fresh start. They give them back their lives. Then I think people in the professions. Take doctors, nurses, teachers, coaches, physical and occupational therapists do things that heal. Don’t they encourage? They assist those they touch; give them a boost by helping them to return to strength and vigor. Lawyers and insurance agents assist people in trouble and give them a new start. They give them back their live; they help put them back on their feet. This week I learned of Isaiah House helping people to overcome addictions in front of Kroger and I read about PAL (Police Athletic and Activities League assisting city youth.) These are all examples of the life of Christ in the persons who do these things. It is the life given to each of us in baptism. Pope Francis did the same this week on Friday night in his “virtual audience” when he heard young people in Chicago, Los Angeles and McAllen, Texas tell him of the great obstacles they had encountered in their young lives. He gave them encouragement. He gave them hope. He gave them back their lives. Once again, how do we?