Passages: Is. 13:2-11; 2 Corinthians 7:4-16; Mark 7:31-37
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Եսայ. ԺԳ 2-11; Բ Կորնց Է 4-16; Մարկ. Է 31-37
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
When a child is growing up and slowly being exposed to the world around them, they begin to develop likes and dislikes, including flavors, style and their own personality. Who they will grow up to be is influenced by what they see and hear through the good and bad examples of their lives. One of the last acts or senses to develop in a child is speech; the ability to talk and express themselves. Not just when but even the kind of speech a child begins to use develops from what they have observed and heard. If a child lives in a foreign home, they may develop an accent; or if they live in a home full of cursing and vulgar language, they will develop a vulgar vocabulary. And once a certain vocabulary, habit, attitude, taste, and personality has been established in a child, it is very difficult to break. Yet, a devoted parent works and strives to bring that child to maturity in their speech and behavior by teaching them, by listening and instructing the child, no matter how stubborn the child may be. Of course, we all know this, that unless the child learns to listen and understand they will never actually want to change and so it will always be an uphill battle.
My dears, when we pray to God we are hoping He will listen. We sit in our cars, or at our workplace, in school before an exam, alone at home, or in Church, or wherever we may be, and if we have any belief, we pray. And there are a multitude of things we all pray for; opening up our hearts, we ask for forgiveness, healing, strength, patience, hope, love, courage, wealth, or health. We pray for rain, we pray for sun. We pray for many-many things hoping that God will hear us and give us what we are asking for. Yet, the Church Father’s ask an interesting question, when we pray to God and hope He is listening, do we listen to our own prayers? What does this mean? In the Gospel of Mark today, we read of how “they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they wanted him to lay his hand upon him.” In other words, they came seeking healing. In other translations it says deaf and dumb. This might seem offensive to a modern audience today, to refer to someone who is mute or has difficulty speaking as dumb, but in the ancient world and even at its root a “dumb” person did not mean “stupid” or “uneducated” but rather, one who cannot speak. Interestingly even in Armenian, what do we call animals? Anasoon, which today may seem like insult, just like the word dumb, but at its root it means those that don’t speak. So they bring to Christ this man who is deaf and unable to speak for healing. They bring a man who either from birth or over his life had lost his ability to hear and who was unable to speak. Whether this meant he grunted, or made noises, or perhaps was just not able to express himself we don’t know. Scripture indicates a speech impediment not complete silence. We do know however, that once Christ healed him, he was able to speak plainly, meaning in a way that others could understand him. Yet, I want us to look at how he was healed. “And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Eph′phatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” What stands out? Look at the order of events especially in that last sentence. “…his ears were opened, his tongue was released…”
When we pray to God, we come with requests and desires, and we look for words to be able to articulate and express what we want. Much like a child who has only just began to learn how to express themselves, in prayer sometimes we aren’t sure how to speak to God, or if God even understands or hears us. Perhaps we feel like a person with a speech impediment, we make noises but are not sure if we are understood. Yet, our entire Christian faith is not about us petitioning or telling God what we want. Our faith is about maturing, learning, and growing. It is about being healed of our sinfulness, our brokenness, our vulgarity, our perversions, our shortcomings, etc. To be a Christian is not defined in our ability to give a sermon, sing or chant in Church, recite prayers, or even talk clear sentences. Those are the things that should be a natural reflection of an already healed and growing faith. Rather, Christ first must heal us, open our ears and our eyes to observe and learn so that when we pray not only do we hope that God hears our prayers, but we also listen and understand ourselves of how God speaks back to us.
Why? So we can speak plainly, meaning we can speak our faith, live and express our faith in a way others can understand. Sadly, especially in today’s society, we have chosen to become deaf and dumb once again. Much like a child who does not want to learn, we do not want to listen to God. We want to hold on to our own premonitions, thoughts, ideas, views, and concepts. We don’t listen to each other, we don’t see each other, and we act as if everyone else is dumb and unable to speak while we know better. We want the Church to change, we want our parents to change, our community to change, our government to change, our world to change, yet, we refuse to listen to God who first calls us to be changed and healed, and therefore, we become the change we want to see. For our own ears to be opened first, then for us to be able to speak plainly, speak with love, speak with hope, speak not just with words but with our very lives. In the same way, the best sermon is the life we live not the words that come from the pulpit, likewise, the greatest prayer is the faith poured out not with the words we say to God as if he was the mall Santa Claus. But rather, the life of faith lived which others will see and understand.
My dear brothers and sister, in Proverbs 4 we read, “be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.” Learn to listen first. Grow and learn what God is teaching us through the Holy Scriptures, through the Traditions and life in the Church. These are the tools by which God speaks to us and heals us saying “Be opened” – Be healed my child. Then live a life of faith, of maturity, of hope, love and courage; a life of compassion, mercy and joy standing firm in the knowledge that yes, God our Heavenly Father does hear our prayers, and through the Holy Spirit lifts us up, answers us, if only we would first choose to listen. Come to God, seek to be opened and grow. Take time to ask, develop a vocabulary of love and hope in Christ Jesus. Only then may we use what God has given us to lift others up, hear the prayers of others, listen to the commandments of our Lord who heals and transforms us each day we come to Him. And may we bring glory through the life we live, to God our Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever, Amen!