Deaf and Mute

In recent weeks, we have been bombarded with the bad news about the Catholic church: priests sexually abused more than a thousand minors in the dioceses of Pennsylvania in the past 70 years and the former nuncio made an 11-page statement about the cover-up in the Vatican regarding the McCarrick scandal. We, as Catholics, ordained or not, feel ashamed of the scandals that happened in our church.  We ask ourselves, when will this end? Will we survive as one whole church in the Body of Christ? This Sunday’s first reading gives us some light to deal with our crisis. In this part of the book of Isaiah, the prophet talked about the restoration of Israel long before the exile takes place. He addressed those who were frightened and fearful at the prospect of exile, that in the end, God would come to save them and would not abandon them. At the time of restoration, the people were once deaf to the word of God; they would hear with clarity what God had to say to them. They were once unable to speak; they later sing songs of praise to God. We might now feel that we are just like the Israelites in the desert, where thirsty ground is all around us and the path we walk on is burning sands, but with focus on the word of God, the burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground will become springs of water. God’s mercy and compassion are always greater than our shame and anger.

Continuing on the theme of compassion and mercy of God, the gospel this Sunday give us a concrete example. Jesus went into a foreign country and adopted certain customary healing ways that would have been familiar to the people of that territory. Since the person in the gospel was deaf and mute, the only way Jesus could communicate with him was by gesture. Hence Jesus put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue. This gesture was used by the healers in that region. The use of the gesture might only be significant to this deaf and mute person, but not to bystanders. That is why Jesus took him off by himself away from the crowd. The most significant gesture was when Jesus looked up to heaven and groaned to indicate the healing which was going to take place was coming from God. If God could adopt human nature and become incarnated, certainly, Jesus could adopt the foreign culture and became enculturated. Incarnation and enculturation are concrete gestures of God’s compassion and mercy.

The Church to continue to grow and be purified, we must restrain our emotion to rush to a conclusion of what is going on in the Vatican, as indicated by the former nuncio to the United States. The truth will come out with evidence and not by he says and she says. By taking sides, we would be unavoidably involved in the political arena, and that would not help our faith and our love for Christ to grow. A person who is deaf is often mute also, even though he or she seems to have all the required elements to speak. It is because there is no feedback sound for the vocal cord to activate. In other words, there is no integration of the sound into the system. We have heard many words in the scripture and how many of the words have been integrated into our lives? The scandal of the Church was mainly because there was no integration of God’s word into the perpetrator’s lives. That, of course, was the extreme case. We as worshipers have to be careful of our own integration of God’s word into our lives, otherwise, the body of Christ as a church will be handicapped by our being deaf and mute.

Francis Ng

About Father Francis