The Gospel Reading for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary time describes Jesus’ healing of a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment. The act of healing contains more gestures and sounds than word: “[Jesus] 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!’ – that is, ‘Be opened!’ (Mark 7:31-37).
Jesus’ prayer was a groan- “a deep inarticulate sound in response to pain or despair” followed by the simple but commanding words “be opened.” His prayer came from deep within with a desire to alleviate the suffering of another – also known as compassion.
I am reminded of story I recently heard of a young boy of 4 years with a condition known as dyspraxia, that effects motor skills and speech. After watching the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, whose main character, Groot, has limited verbal skills, the child’s speech behavior began to change. Apparently the comic character’s simple, repetitive low toned speech had a positive effect on the child’s speech, perhaps as did the identification with another with similar speech impediments.
Did Jesus choose to identify with the man’s limitations by praying from his depths rather than use eloquent words for healing? Whatever the case we see how Jesus’ compassion brought healing to the man.
In our lives . . .
While there have been many experiences among us, as Sisters of the Holy Redeemer, this week, we focus on a couple of events.
First is the return of Petra, our Postulant, from Germany where she assisted the Sisters there in their care for refugees staying at the Motherhouse. These are the people whose faces and stories we have been seeing and hearing of in the news. People fleeing from desperate situations of war and violent conflict. They are fleeing for their lives and often only with their lives. Upon finding refuge in other countries they encounter language barriers. Unable to share their stories they are easily misunderstood and their needs often go unmet. All of which can lead to a variety of difficulties.
When others are able to identify with their language and hear their stories, they may be able to experience a liberation and healing in the midst of such despair. Perhaps one of our greatness needs as human beings is to be understood and to belong. Throughout this week, Petra has been sharing stories of many of the refugees since she was able to communicate at some level with many of them. In learning their stories her compassion and prayer has deepened for their plight. In sharing their stories she deepens our compassion. In the face of such tragedy what words can express the needs? We trust God hears the groaning of the people.
The week ends with Adoration. A time to look upon, to be with Jesus in silence. A time to allow Jesus to look upon us. We bring ourselves, our hearts, our depths to this space and time. We can now also bring the stories, the lives of the thousands of refugees to this place of generous silence.
Finally, those in Formation will visit Ellis Island this weekend to walk in the shoes of the first Sisters who came to America in 1924. We remember their journey to a new land as well as their determination to bring the healing presence of Jesus to those they were called to serve despite language limitations and cultural differences. Their determination and compassion must surely have risen from the depths of their prayer and relationship with God. This visit will also be a reminder to us of all those who are currently seeking a welcome in a new country.
In your life . . .
You may wish to reflect upon Romans 8:26: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
Have you ever experienced a time when words failed you, when you could not find the words to share how you felt or to describe the need? A simple yet profound utterance of a groan allows the depth of our spirit to to connect with God’s Spirit who knows our depths. So go ahead – let out a good groan once in awhile!
Blessings on your week!