Sunday, 6 September 2009


When I was a teenager, bored one evening I flicked through the pages of the local newspaper and came across a course for those wishing to learn how to communicate with the deaf and hearing imparied. I thought it might have been an interesting course and a useful skill to have so I signed up.

Over the next academic year as well as learning sign language I was given an insight into the world of the deaf, their culture and some of the difficulties that those with a hearing disability face. It was a very interesting course and I enjoyed it immensely.

As part of the course we had to say something about our work and I made the ‘mistake’ of telling the group that I was thinking of becoming a priest. I say mistake because the teacher, a committed Catholic and profoundly deaf herself, roped me into what is now called Hollywood House in our diocese and the Catholic Deaf Association. From that moment I have been involved in work with deaf people. God moves in a mysterious way in our lives and the ability to sign has come in useful on a number of occasions in my ministry as a priest.

In to-day’s Gospel we read the story of the healing of a deaf man by our Lord. As part of the healing process the Lord says to the deaf man ‘Ephphatha – that is ‘Be opened’ and the Lord touches his ears. Those same words and gestures are used in the ceremony of baptism. The priest makes the sign of the cross over the ears and mouth of the child saying ‘The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word and your mouth to proclaim his faith to the praise and glory of God the Father.’

But we all know there are none so deaf as those who do not want to hear. There are none so hard of heart as those who will not open themselves up to the Lord and allow his healing touch to change their lives.

We come to Mass Sunday by Sunday and we hear the scriptures proclaimed, we hear homilies preached, but do we really listen. Does what we hear proclaimed in these four walls week by week make any difference to the way we live our lives? Or do we have selective hearing?

One of the converts I was instructing sometime ago at one of our sessions suddenly exclaimed ‘Father, I’ve got it! The Catholic Faith isn’t like the pick and mix counter at Woolworth’s (in the days when we had Woolworth’s). You can’t pick and choose which bits to like and ignore the rest.’

How right he was but how many of us try to do just that? We take away with us the parts that we like and those that we don’t like or that challenge us to change we pretend we haven’t heard. Jesus being born in Bethlehem is a nice story so we listen to it. Jesus telling us we have to love our enemies and pray for those who cause us trouble – well we don’t like that so we don’t listen. Jesus blessing the children is nice so we listen, but Jesus telling us that certain types of relationships are wrong -well we don’t like that so we turn off our hearing aids so we can’t hear.
The Lord challenges and calls us this Sunday to listen attentively to him and listen to everything that he says – not just the bits that we like and make us feel good so that we can proclaim the wonders the Lord has worked for us. And people will say of us what they said of Our Lord. ‘He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and to those without speech he gives a voice. Amen

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