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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Have You Stopped Listening to Jesus?

Robert Barron - Have You Stopped Listening to Jesus?

Robert Barron - Have You Stopped Listening to Jesus?

Peace be with you. Friends, I love this Gospel for this weekend, the story of Jesus healing the man with the speech impediment who can't hear. It operates at so many different levels, and they're all beautiful. Here's a first thing to notice about it, is Jesus does something which is relatively rare in the Gospels; that is, he wanders outside of the territory of Israel. So mind you, he said, "I've come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel". So that's his first obligation. But we know that after the Resurrection, especially Paul here comes to mind, the Church goes outward from Israel to the ends of the world.

So occasionally in the Gospels, we get a kind of foretaste, a kind of hint of this move, well, especially in this story, because Jesus wanders out of Israel into what's called in Greek the Decapolis. It just means the area of the ten cities. This was a territory to the east of the River Jordan, so in present-day Jordan. At the time, it was very much under the influence of the Greco-Roman culture, because the Romans wanted to signal "Our culture has gone to the ends of the world". So it was kind of the Eastern extreme of the Roman empire. So into this more Greek, Roman, we might say today, this more secular sort of territory, Jesus wanders. And there, they bring to him a man who cannot hear, and as is often the case with someone who can't hear, they have a speech impediment. And Jesus famously cures him.

Now, I've said this many times to you before: the Gospels are intensely interested in Jesus the healer. So that this really happened, that's without doubt; Jesus healed people all the time. And this story is so vividly remembered that it undoubtedly is describing a real historical event. But having said that, the Gospel writers are all literary and theological geniuses. And so they take these stories, and they present them in such a way that they operate at deeper levels as well. And so we're meant to see in this story of healing, a kind of deeper story of healing. And I think this story is really all about evangelization. Now, what do I mean? Well, let's read it more symbolically. The Decapolis, the ten cities, the realm that's more secular, outside of Israel.

I think much of our Western culture today is like the Decapolis. In other words, not a culture shaped by the word of God, but shaped very much by secularist influences. As a result, a lot of people in our culture can't hear the word of God. They are attuned to other voices, but not the voice of the Lord. If Israel stands for this religiously trained culture that knows how to hear the word of God, the Decapolis, that's the realm of unhearing, the realm, if you want, of spiritual deafness. Now, do we hear lots of voices in our culture? And the answer is obviously yes. We hear all the time the voice of materialism. I mean the view, boy, do young people share this in massive numbers, the view that all there is, is the world of matter. The world the sciences describe, matter and motion, that's all there is. Spiritual purpose, deeper meaning, moral value, no, everything just comes down to matter, materialism.

And so find as much pleasure as you can in life. How about the voice, I've talked about it a lot with you, of subjectivist individualism. "I am the source of value. I'm the source of truth. Truth is what I say it is. I determine my own moral values". That's rampant in our culture. That voice is heard all the time. Relatedly, the voice of moral relativism. "There's no real moral truth. There's what's true for me, and what's true for you. And who am I to impose myself on you? And let's just kind of blandly tolerate each other's points of view". Yeah, that voice is heard all the time. In fact, all three of these, I think, can be heard echoing over and over again in almost every movie you watch. Watch a movie today and be attentive to the ultimate message of the movie.

I think you're going to hear some version of these voices. Listen to pop music. Listen to the lyrics of the songs that young people are attending to. I think you'll hear these voices very clearly. Read the books that are popular in our culture. Listen to the pop stars who dominate the conversation. Yeah, you'll hear a lot of these voices. Now, how's it work? My ability to speak articulately is correlated very directly to my ability to hear. Right? If I hear certain voices, I'm going to start reproducing them. That's the way that we learn language. If these are all the voices we ever hear, that's all we're ever going to say. What's the point? We, in our culture, this Decapolis of today, are often deaf to the voice of God, deaf to this higher voice that speaks a divine spiritual truth, that speaks of eternal moral values, that speaks of the existence and demand and invitation of God.

We're deaf to that voice. And therefore, what? We are inarticulate in our capacity to express these truths. Because we can't hear them, we can't speak them. I mean, I think this is massively true throughout much of the secular culture of today. Okay? With that more symbolic reading in mind, let's go back and visit this story and the way Mark describes it. So the "people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment". Can I suggest it's almost, it's everybody in our secular culture. "He took him off by himself away from the crowd". It's very interesting.

You say, "Well, that's just a little minor detail". I don't think so. What's the key to this man recovering his hearing and his speech? He's got to be led away from the crowd. The crowd today, the voices that surround us on all sides. Part of the job of the Church is to lead away from that world that another world might open up. To move people into another arena of experience, into the arena of moral and spiritual truths, the truths about God. Move him away from the crowd. Maybe young people, especially, listening to me right now: What kind of crowd are you with? Whom are you hanging around with? Whom are you listening to like all the time? Whether you're on Facebook, you're on Twitter, you're on Instagram, you're watching the films, you're listening to songs. What is the crowd that surrounds you? Maybe it's time to allow yourself to be led away from that crowd. Okay, now listen. Took him away from the crowd.

"He put his fingers in the man's ears and, spitting, touched his tongue". Now, stay with that admittedly kind of weird image. Jesus puts his fingers in the man's ears, and then, we're not quite sure exactly what this means, spitting, touched his tongue. Here's how I think about it. Think of Jesus as it were plugging himself into this man. Jesus, as I've said a million times, is not one teacher among many, one great spiritual guru. No, no; he's like a field of force. He's the one in whom we live, through whom we know. He's the vine; we're the branches. Well, this image of Jesus now plugging himself as it were into the man's ears, this is taking someone today away from the crowd and plugging him or her into the electrical current that comes from Jesus.

That's the whole life of the Church, isn't it? That's evangelization: to bring people to Christ that they might be plugged anew into his energy, they might begin to hear him and resonate with him. "Spitting, touched his tongue". Was this maybe an ancient healing gesture? Well, we don't know exactly, but Jesus may be borrowing it from his culture. But what I love here: the intensity of the physical contact. Jesus, as it were, like rubbing his own life into this man. What are the sacraments of the Church, which involve these visceral physical elements, water, and oil, and the imposition of hands, and bread and wine consecrated?

What are the sacraments but the means by which Jesus is rubbing his life into us. I just love the plugging in the ears and the spitting on the tongue. It's such a visceral, physical contact. Well, that's what it means to be in relationship with him. It doesn't just mean "Oh, I've taken on a new interesting teacher in my life". No, no; I've come to live in him. "It's no longer I who lives," says Paul, "but Christ who lives in me". Plugging into his ear, spitting on his tongue; this is the intense contact with Jesus.

Now listen; I love this. "Then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, 'Ephphatha!' that means, 'Be opened!'" First "Ephphatha", there are three times in the Gospels when the Aramaic of Jesus, his own speech, is preserved. First is the "Talitha kumi," remember, to the young girl; "Little girl, get up"! The other one is "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani"? from the cross. "God, my God, why have you abandoned me"? And then this one. It's interesting, isn't it? Three times only in the Greek of the Gospels that the original language of Jesus is preserved. "Ephphatha". "Be opened". You see what that is? Paul Tillich, the Protestant theologian, talked about self-complacent finitude. He meant the view of the world that "Here, I'm in the finite world of matter and the goods of this world. And I'm okay with that. I'm self-complacent in my finitude".

Another great Protestant thinker, Karl Barth, said the prime deadly sin of today is sloth, a kind of spiritual laziness. "Be opened". "Ephphatha". Open your mind and your heart and your ears to hear a higher voice. But I love this. So Jesus, now, imagine, he's got the fingers in the man's ears. He's the Son of God. He's the Word made flesh. He looks up to heaven, that always means looking to his Father, and then he groans. "Ahh". What's groaning but just allowing breath to kind of run over the vocal cords. Can't help but see this as an image of the Trinity. The Son looking up to the Father, and then the breath of the Holy Spirit.

Remember Paul talks about the groanings of the Holy Spirit in us. Well, here it is. This deaf man who can't speak, that's all of us today, or many of us in the secular culture. We can't hear the word of God and therefore we can't speak it. What's the point of evangelization? Is to plug these deaf and inarticulate people into the field of force who is Christ, so that in turn, they might be drawn into the very life of the Trinity. There's the program. There's the program everybody for evangelization. Maybe you feel, as you listen to me right now, that you're not sufficiently evangelized. Maybe you feel, "Yeah, I'm kind of deaf to the word of God".

Come. Come to Christ. In the story, people brought him to Christ. Okay, you go. You go on your own. Get plugged into his power. Or maybe, maybe, you hear the word of God, but a lot of people around you don't. Bring them. You. Now. Today. As these friends did, you bring people to Christ. Bring them to the Church, bring them to the sacraments, plug them into the power of Christ, that they might hear, and eventually that they might therefore be able to speak, the word of God. And God bless you.
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