23rd Sunday Reflection: Isolation and Forgetfulness
ISOLATION AND FORGETFULNESS – 23rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B 2021 – (Mark 7:31-37)
Familiarity too easily makes us forgetful. The loss of grace, the loss of a gift, terrible as it may be, is in itself a grace, a gift, an opportunity for understanding, and a return to lived gratitude.
This follows the basic rule of a crisis that we never come out of it the same, there is no return to life as it was. When we get through crises, we come out better or worse, but never the same.
Over these last six years, there have been and continue to be many ‘griefs and anxieties’ afflicting the human family and all of creation. We are starting to see the terrible endpoint of our choices without love, communication, community, or dignity.
But FIRST COMES LOVE. It is the Love experience that opens us to that attentive listening with eagerness, humility, and passion that is the ongoing development and flowering of our identity. It is in the eyes of the Lover that the Beloved comes to see themselves as that true image in which they are created, beautiful in being, of inestimable value, and ultimate intrinsic dignity.
We have speeded up the transfer of information through the press, television, and social media, yet we have ever less and less time for conversation, to be still, to be present, to touch, and to listen to each other, for true communication. We have chosen insular, lonely lives that are often based on an illusion of cyber-space, of a virtual world. A world isolated from God’s Word of reality. As always this Word has the power to reflect back to us our own choices.
Let us remember those cut off from their children and grandchildren, spouses separated, families isolated, loved ones left to die alone, without consolation. Communication is the genesis of all things created; it is the energy, the very stuff of reality, and in our ability to form concepts and communicate with language, we also reach out to comprehend the nature of our reality, to reach out to that which is infinite and to stand in the very doorway of the sacred; but something has gone wrong with our ability.
In today’s gospel, the ‘impediment’ in man’s speech symbolises our own inability to initiate conversation, our inability to communicate with God, with other human beings, with nature, and even with ourselves.
Yet our story today is one of hope and opportunity; it tells us that the power to communicate is a possibility for each one of us. This possibility is however often fractured and distorted by the negative forces within us, fear, hurt, resentment, and anger, all those emotions that close us in onto ourselves and away from communion. Our current isolation is reflected back to us in its ultimate brutality.
Wherever our fear, hurt, resentment and anger have not been transformed into that communion with redemption on the cross, it strikes out to transmit its own pain to others; like an angry mistress lashing out. We have great power within us if we can only get it right.
Let us look again at how Jesus leads this man; how Jesus can lead us also to healing. Jesus takes the man ‘aside in private’. Healing requires intimacy in vulnerability. When we try to do it publicly, we run the risk of using persons to bolster our ego or for our personal ambition, and even to our shame, financial gain.
The healing process in this story is very physical. Jesus ‘puts his fingers into the man’s ears and touches his tongue with spittle’. Here there is no disembodied spiritual high-ground; this is a meeting of bodies. Healing always takes place within the communion of the Body of Christ.
Jesus ‘sighs’, taking on himself the pain of the other. We also recall our own connectedness; wherever there is the suffering of another; wherever there is pain and the loss of dignity of another; that is our suffering, our pain, and our loss also. Jesus ‘looks up to heaven’, acknowledging the source of all healing power, in the source of being, at the heart within the Trinity.
God’s gift to us is the gift of receiving and the gift of channelling. We are enabled to hear the word of God, and we are empowered to communicate the word of God. In opening our ears and lips, Jesus gathers us up into his own divine life. This is all possible within the Kingdom of God, within the reality of the here and now, within the reality of our community as the family of God.
As a global community, we are being called to acknowledge our complicity in the culture of death that is destroying our planet. We are called to acknowledge our guilt in the acquisitiveness and greed that manipulates, diverts, and drains resources meant for the common good of all.
As penitents, we are called to find new ways forward and to… recognise the Spirit offering us is the work of justice, peace, and integrity of creation. We are challenged to put into action projects that promote integral ecology, which must always recognise the interconnected ‘cry of the earth and cry of the poor’ (Laudato Si’ 49).
In this moment of climate crisis, where the poor will suffer first and most dramatically, we are committed to being leaders in the Church and world to advocate on behalf of all the voiceless, the human and non-human alike.