Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
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People brought to Jesus a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue…
He took him off by himself. Christ put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue. Gross! I can see why the Lord took him off by himself away from his friends. He may have been concerned about his safety. I know I would not have handled the spitting part well at all. And if I had been the deaf man, I would have been fuming! Wait a minute! What are you doing to me? Why are you doing this? Stop right now!
This man must have had tremendous faith and unconditional trust in Jesus. That’s my only explanation why he didn’t sock it to Jesus in the face.
But his case sounds awfully similar to the Syrophoenician’s; and like her, and to make matters even more complicated, was not a Jew (since the Lord had entered into the district of the Decapolis).
It is obvious the Lord is exacting great faith from those who already have it. They all acted like a “Christian” without ever having met a “Christian.” How interesting.
Christianity for dummies. I once had a professor whose name was Ronald Francis. His name was nearly impossible to forget, especially after he told us one day: “Just remember, my first name is like the President. My last name is like the saint.” It worked. We never forgot.
We were around 70 students, all freshmen, studying Imaging Science. Dr. Francis was a tough teacher. He demanded excellence and was allergic to mediocrity. When nearly all of us failed our first mid-term exam, he took his place at the front of the classroom and began pacing up and down, saying, “Gentlemen. Ladies. Let me tell you something. Brilliant people don’t need to go to college. They can become very successful without it because they are already brilliant. Dummies, on the other hand, need to go to college. And let me tell you: you are all dummies.”
He was right. We were all dummies for not taking our classes more seriously but paying thousands of dollars to attend them! How stupid could we be?
Well, the same holds true for most sinners. We need the Sacraments. We need to go to Church. We need to study the teachings of Christ. Otherwise, we would never be as kind or considerate or friendly as the Lord demands us to be. I will admit: I could never do it on my own. I’ve tried and failed. The Christian faith is truly for dummies; that is, for sinners.
The Syrophoenician woman did not need to be catechized. She didn’t have to follow the Lord all day long. She was a born “natural.” Maybe it was in her genes. Maybe it was how she was brought up. Regardless, she was an “anonymous Christian.” So too was the deaf man. Maybe his illness made him more humble, more patient, more amicable and more trusting and forgiving towards God and neighbor. Who knows, but God. And these Scripture passages make it clear that God knew all too well.
Over and over again, the Lord reaches out to pagans. He must have known their natural desire for Him and their tremendous faith in Him, and how they would make great role models for His eager but often slow to learn and unremarkably surprising Apostles.
The sacred writers leave no doubts about it: The Apostles needed to follow the Lord, closely. They needed to be instructed by Him, directly, for Christ and Christianity didn’t come natural to any of them.
And maybe it doesn’t come very natural to us as well. I can honestly say it doesn’t come natural to me at all.
Heavenly Father, open our eyes, ears and tongue to be more like your Son, who was loving at all times and to all people. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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