This post is an adaptation from a homily I wrote for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B.
A speech impediment. That’s what the man in the Gospel had today. A speech impediment. Not liver cancer. Not leprosy. A speech impediment. Something was getting in the way of him speaking. This seems like such a random thing for Jesus to heal. Of all the problems in the world, a speech impediment just doesn’t seem on top of the list.
Somehow, the Church has recognized this as one of Jesus’ most important healings. Every RCIA class goes through this reading, and this action of Jesus is relived on them in Mass as they prepare for Easter. Every baptism relives this moment in its liturgy. The removal of a speech impediment.
And yet, in our modern world, I think our collective speech impediment is the single most evil think Satan has wrought on the world. We keep our mouths shut, we are afraid to speak, we are afraid to add our voice to the world, and most of all, we are often afraid to even speak the name of our Lord.
We are scared of what people might think of us. We don’t want to be considered “too religious”. Like that’s a bad thing. We have allowed the precious name of Jesus Christ to become a bad word, a curse people yell when they stub their toe. We don’t want to talk to people at our work about Jesus. We don’t want to put a bumper sticker on our car that calls to the Lord. The heroes of our faith, all of them, proclaimed his name with abandon, with excitement, and they didn’t care what anyone thought of them for it. It was Jesus, and only Jesus. Whether the world brought them suffering, pain or even death, the name of Jesus was ever on their lips. And we are scared to even mention him.
We have a speech impediment. A very serious speech impediment. And we need to be healed of it.
Ephphatha! Be Opened! Share your faith, be an evangelist. I know you don’t always have the right words, who cares? Only Jesus matters. I know you will be judged, who cares? Only Jesus matters.
Today we have an opportunity to open our mouths, to be opened. We are in fact called to live out our faith, to boldly profess our faith in the Lord. There are so many ways we can do this, some of them large commitments, some of them small. But we must add our voice to the throng, we must move out into the world, and we must leave our speech impediment behind.
I know what you are thinking: “What do you want me to do deacon, put on a sandwich board and walk the streets?” Well, I’m not against that if you want to, but I think there might be some other ways that you might feel more called to!
Find a ministry that suits you. It might be something simple, like refilling the holy water fonts, or it might be something that requires study, like leading a religious education class. Maybe you feel you are called to visit the homebound, or maybe you want to work with the homeless shelter. Maybe your ministry is outreach among your family, friends and coworkers. There are so many ways you can serve the Lord, all you need to do is search your heart, and the Lord will lead you.
Yes, it is important to share of your treasure, and a parish cannot survive without your continued financial support. But they need more than money, they need YOU. You have talents that only you can do, and these too need to be in the service of the Lord. Do not be afraid to act, do not be afraid to use His name, do not be afraid to live a full Christian life!