HEALING OUR HANDICAPS AND WOUNDS: 23RD SUNDAY B
Every time we find ourselves listening to the stories of God at Mass, we need to ask ourselves two questions: – 1. Where am I in the story? 2. Where are we in the story? Let’s apply that now to the story we hear today about the healing by Jesus of a handicapped man, handicapped by being both deaf and dumb.
Our first response to this story might be: ‘Well, I’m not deaf, and I’m not dumb. I’m not handicapped. Or if I am, not much! So what’s the story got to do with me?’ The fact is, we’ve all got limitations, we’ve all got handicaps, and we’ve all got wounds. Just because ours are not as visible and as obvious as that of the man in the gospels, doesn’t make them any less real.
In one way or another we are all wounded and hurting. We see this in
husbands who take refuge in work because they are no longer attracted to their wives. We see it in wives who are wounded by lack of attention and affection from their husbands. We see it in parents who are fighting and arguing with one another or with their children. We see it in children who are not getting the love they need, or who are feeling smothered by ‘helicopter parents’ hovering too closely over them.
Some people carry deep wounds from bad experiences as a child. Others are wounded by sickness, or by the death of a loved one. Some are wounded by the infidelity of their partner, or by not being able to accept themselves as they are. Some are wounded by failures at work or in relationships. Others are wounded by being unable to forgive or forget. Some are wounded by being rejected by someone they love.
Some of us are more wounded than others. But the deepest wounds may be those not visible to the eye. Inside each of us there might be a whole hidden world of suffering.
With some people their inner wounds have driven them to drugs, drink, depression or pornography, or a combination of all of these. In others their inner wounds have led to a compulsion to prove themselves, to appear successful, to win, to dominate, to show off, and even perhaps to an obsession with helping and saving others – to acting out a kind of ‘messiah complex’.
On the road to healing, the first step is to own that we are indeed wounded and hurting. Counselling with a caring therapist or even deep conversations with a trusted friend, may help us find the source of our frustration and put us on the road to recovery.
But no matter what our wounds are, what needs healing most of all is our heart, our mental and emotional outlook. If only our heart could change we could move on and give so much more to our relationships. But as a result of particularly painful experiences, the heart is often left empty, cold and unwelcoming, hard and unyielding, and weighed down with worry and anxiety. Maybe we even find ourselves suffering from a broken heart?
We should not be surprised by any of this. It means simply that we are human beings, who have hearts of flesh, not hearts of stone. Just the same, our wounded hearts ache to be relieved and healed, so that we can find freedom and deliverance, love and peace, joy and contentment.
This miracle Jesus did on that deaf and dumb man reminds us that hearing is a precious gift. But it is only with the heart, a heart like the heart of Jesus, that we can hear what is hurting others most of all. The cry of someone in need may reach our ears, but if it does not touch our heart we will not feel that person’s pain, and we will not do anything about it. The miracle that Jesus worked reminds us too that the gift of speech is a precious gift. But if we do not speak our words from the heart, they will be empty, hollow, and a waste of time.
In touching the ears and tongue of that handicapped sufferer, Jesus also touched his wounded heart. More than anything else it was that touch which made him a different person, a new man in fact. That was the real miracle.
It’s the same for us. So, for the healing of our wounded, damaged or broken hearts, we must look to Jesus, just as Pope Francis has recently advised: If there are times when you experience sadness, depression, negative feelings, I would ask you to look at Christ crucified. Look at his face. He sees us; in his eyes there is a place for us. We can all bring to Christ our wounds, our pain, our sins. In his wounds, there is a place for our own wounds. There they can be soothed, washed cleaned, changed and healed. He died for us, for me, so that he could stretch out his hand and lift us up.
We must also be ready to look to other human beings, persons who can and will put us together again, who can and will put us on the road to recovery. In this great work, we can experience them as agents of Jesus – the greatest and best healer ever – of wounded, handicapped, and broken people, of people like us.