I preached this homily at Notre Dame Seminary on Friday, February 10, 2017. I am preaching on Mark 7:31-37.
I would like to focus for a few minutes on the deaf man. I want to present him as a type of baptism.
Notice he did not come to Jesus on his own. He was brought. His deafness was to the Word of God, so he could neither hear nor speak God’s word. Why? He did not know it. He is a type of the nations – those who have never heard the Gospel. As Paul says (And Augustine quotes), “How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” (Rom 10:14, Augustine’s Confessions Ch. 1). Even though Genesis says that, after they ate the fruit, their eyes were opened, we know, in another way, they were blinded – Sin had been introduced to man; his intellect was darkened and his will weakened.
That’s where we come in. We are those people who bring the man to Jesus. We preach the Gospel. And, here, I’m not just talking to the seminarians (especially since most of them seem to have gone to the St. Rita Mass, so they’re not here). Every single one of us is included in that commission to evangelize, to preach the Gospel to all nations.
What did they do, though? This is the example of what we must do. They did not just preach to him. They didn’t tell him about Jesus. They didn’t just teach him. They brought him to an encounter with Jesus Christ. If all we ever do is talk about our own encounter, no one will be converted. We see that over and over again in Scripture. Andrew brings Peter to Jesus. The men lower the paralytic through the roof to encounter Jesus. Paul, though he knows his faith better than anyone, persecutes the faith until his own encounter with Jesus.
For most of us, our parents brought us to that first encounter in our baptism when we were babies. The priest (or deacon), echoing this story itself, touched our ears and mouth and echoed this story.
- So the man’s ears were opened. His tongue was loosened.
- Our heart was enlightened and the darkness of original sin was removed.
- The man was commanded to remain silent, but he proclaimed what had been done for him to everyone who would listen.
- We are commanded to “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). Yet, how often we remain silent or, perhaps worse, get in the way and bring people to ourselves instead of the encounter with Christ that will bring them to conversion.
“The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he … touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.” (Rite of Baptism)