What do our readings for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time have to do with our mural at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada? First let us read that Gospel reading again:
People brought to him 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; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” “Be opened!” Immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.”
First, the man comes forward with a speech impediment. Jesus does not address this issue, at least not directly. “He put his finger into the man’s ears…” The problem with most of us is in the listening. In our politics, we speak past each other. Our side is the righteous side and the other side is stupid for not seeing things the way we see them. In religion, our side is the righteous side and the other side is stupid for not seeing things our way. In our daily lives we have the same problem. We are right and, by extension, the other side is wrong. The result is that people don’t listen to us; we have a speech impediment.
Zechariah, in Hebrew and Aramaic, means remembrance. His wife, Elizabeth? Her name? The Oath of Elijah. The Oath of Elijah is sterile, a vain remembrance of greater times gone by. Gabriel, the Strength of God, comes calling and Zechariah, Remembrance, says, “How will I know this?” He does not listen with his ears or his heart to the very strength of God and the result? He is not able to speak. Before we can speak, we must first be able to listen.
There are five levels of listening. The first level, the one most of us do, is called non-attending. This is what we do in politics and religion. This is when we are so certain we are right we do not have to listen to the other side. We look down on the person we listen to, or we think about our response, and not what the other person says. In the second, we respond to content. The other person might continue talking but we are not communicating. In the third level we listen not just to content, but to the person as a flesh and blood human being. We listen for the heart and for the content. We listen for the feelings of the other side, and for the real meaning of what they try to tell us. In the next level, we personalize the thoughts, feelings, and meanings with the other person. This is when we start to become family with them. We relate, not on an abstract level, but as two human beings with a common history. This is what society is supposed to be about. At the final level, we begin working as a community to define goals and work to make the world a better place to live.
This is where we come to our first reading:
Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God; he comes with vindication; with divine recompense, he comes to save you.
The eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; the lame will leap like a stag, the tongue of the mute will sing.
God comes when we first say, “Be strong, fear not…” When we work as a community, listening to the views of the other side, whatever that other side is, asking where their perceptions come from and then working as a community to help resolve those concerns, then and only then, God comes to help us make the world a better place. This only means understanding where their heart, mind, and soul is so we can find real solutions for the betterment of both sides. So, what does this have to do with our mural at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada?
At the top of our mural sits Pope Pious X who wrote Il Fermo Proposito. Section 2 states, “We wish to recall those numerous works of zeal for the good of the Church, society, and individuals under the general name of “Catholic Action,” which by the grace of God flourish throughout the world as well as in Our Italy. You well know, Venerable Brethren, how dear they are to Us and how fervently We long to see them strengthened and promoted.”
Section 3 “Catholic Action is extremely vast. It does not exclude anything, in any manner, direct or indirect, which pertains to the divine mission of the Church. One can plainly see how necessary it is for everyone to cooperate in such an important work. This is not only for the sanctification of his own soul, but also for the extension and increase of the Kingdom of God in individuals, families, and society. each one works according to his energy for the good of his neighbor by the propagation of revealed truth, by the exercise of Christian virtues, by the exercise of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.”
Section 7 They seek to restore Jesus Christ to the family, the school and society by re-establishing the principle that human authority represents the authority of God. They take to heart the interests of the people, especially those of the working and agricultural classes. They not only inculcate in the hearts of everybody a true religious spirit (the only true fount of consolation among the troubles of this life) but also by endeavor to dry their tears, to alleviate their sufferings, and to improve their economic condition by wise measures. They strive, in a word, to make public laws conformable to justice and amend or suppress those which are not so.
Our Gospel tells us, first to listen, then to speak and act through Catholic Action for the common good of all.