Friday in the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time


Friday in the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: 1 Kgs 11:29-32, 12-19; Mk 7:31-37

Today’s gospel story confronts us once again with the utterly upside-down-backwards logic of the gospel: Jesus heals a deaf man by inserting his two fingers and plugging up his ears.  When we make a resolution not to listen to another addressing us, we stick our fingers in our ears.  But when Jesus sticks his fingers in our ears we hear; we can hear everything – and for the first time!  Christian evangelization might be thought of as Jesus sticking his fingers into the ears of deaf people.  But the only fingers Jesus has, following his Ascension into heaven, are our fingers.  It is we who have to try to get our fingers into the ears of the New Atheists currently maligning the Christian faith and the Catholic Church in particular.

A New Atheist like the renowned scientist Richard Dawkins, it seems cannot hear the proclamation that God has become flesh; that, in Christian believers, God is speaking to Dawkins through Jesus Christ, in the person of Jesus’ representatives who are the members of Christ’s body; speaking to him with a human voice, saying: “I love you.  I substituted myself for you as a sacrifice on the cross so that you would be freed from your sins and death, the consequence of sin.  I did this because I created you and I love you.” 

Dawkins can’t hear this, which, it seems to me, raises the question: “Why do people argue with a man who can’t hear them.”  Is that what Jesus did?  For years, Richard Dawkins has been coaxing a Roman Catholic bishop to engage him in a public debate.  As far as I know, no bishop has ever done so.  The bishops are responding to Dawkins the way you might expect a monk to respond: with silence.  There were times when Jesus, coaxed to debate said nothing at all.  Maybe what Jesus is doing is inserting his fingers into the ears of Richard Dawkins, plugging up his ears so that, at last, he might be made to hear.  But he doesn’t have to hear.  God doesn’t force anyone to hear.  And yet, monks can tell stories of people, not at all disposed to listen to the gospel preached to them, having a chance encounter with a community of monks and hearing something; an impression is made on them by the monks and a question arises in their hearts concerning their resistance to the gospel.  We might interpret this moment as Jesus, in the person of the monks, sticking his fingers in the ears of a deaf man, plugging up his ears, and transmitting to him the truth of the gospel in the perfect silence of that encounter.  Maybe monks are, in their own way, the “voice” of Jesus speaking to a world of deaf people in a silence that is finally revelatory.