Let us consider the challenge of when it is a time to hear something difficult, and we are willing to hear it, and the challenge, as well, of when it is a time to speak something hard and true, and we’re willing to speak it.
Both things are going on in the Gospel today. Peter the Rock and the other followers of Our Lord are asked to listen and hear of some hard teachings of Christ. In turn, Jesus has to say some very difficult things to them, which they felt hardly ready to take in.
Did you hear the first line of today’s Word? Isaiah 50:5 reads: “The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled…”
This is the testimony of someone listening with the purpose of following and for using a tight discipline to obey what they hear. Isaiah the prophet (and his disciples writing the text in his following) says that their ears are open to God—not just in a natural hearing, but in a faith hearing. The intention of the Isaian disciple to is to hear, even if the words of God are uncomfortable and hard, and then they purpose to do the will of God, and to not rebel. The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled…”
As we listen to Isaiah 50, we realize it is the prophetic word about a suffering Messiah. It is Old Testament stuff but we realize it forecasts the suffering life that Jesus will take on. Hear the text and notice Jesus in them, saying them:
“I have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” That’s the Messiah speaking in His Passion. Yet He listens to the Father and follows through in the mission of The Cross.
Jesus says the lines of Isaiah 50 “The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced…I have set my face like flint.”
I know that some of you here are hard-pressed about something, and perhaps it is of the Church crisis, or maybe it is something else. You can abide in God in these hard times, by praying with these verses: Lord God, You are my help. This is no dis-grace in the end, if I am in Your Grace. So, I set my face like flint. I am determined and single-hearted for You. (Yes, Lord, I am willing to suffer for my Faith.)
If you have never it done it, friends, then do a reading of Isaiah 50, 51, 52 and chapter 53 and see the Suffering Christ prophecies, which Our Lord fulfilled. Walk along with the Lord of the Passion there in Bible meditation. The Father spoke and led Jesus to be Sacrifice for our salvation, as to do a very hard thing, and Jesus heard the Word and heeded it. With Faith He worked it out for our salvation. It was Faith and Works.
Jesus speaks the difficult words to His followers, for now they had recognized Him as Messiah. Peter had confirmed it, saying: “You are the Christ.” Yet as Jesus reveals more of what kind of Christ He is, as a suffering Christ, His followers are taken aback. They blurt: ‘No, not a suffering Christ!’ Then, Jesus rebukes Satan, for he attacked them in the moment, and Jesus now directs His apostles and all nearby disciples to hear His call. ‘Yes, a suffering Lord.’ “And if anyone follow me, they must deny self, take up their cross, and come after Me.”
You and I, dear Catholics, are being given some words and calls from God right now, in a time of distress in the Body. Will we listen? We will heed Jesus? Or will we rebel and bolt? Satan and his temptations are bidding us to a way out to run off. Yet, wouldn’t we rather trust Christ Jesus? Can we open our ears of faith to Him, so as to be led in our next steps and choices? Isaiah 50:5 reads: “The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled…”
We are in Mark 8 today. It is the hard-turn chapter of the gospel. A hard turn that reveals The Cross.
Last Sunday we were in Mark 7, with the gospel of the deaf-and-mute man and his spectacular healing. Upon the touch of Jesus, the long deaf man would become well. He is become a hearing man. With the saliva of Jesus and a touch of it from the Lord to the man’s mouth, he is also suddenly become able to speak. Did you make the spiritual connection to us today in that healing portrait? Jesus wants to open our ears up (more). He wants to help us to hear clearly by faith, and to hear of God and of movements going about in the spiritual realm. He also, by the first miracle, wants to lead us to the second miracle, in getting us to speak up in His words and truth. To be His voice.
Later in the Gospel, we find out that the testimony of this healed man in the far-off Ten Cities area, will convince people from there to go all the way to Jerusalem to encounter this Jesus for themselves. When has our life led a person to such thirst? Would we like to lead a person to Jesus right now? Are we available to be a Gospel voice?
Let’s go to the topic of “Something Difficult to Hear.”
Mark 8 has hard stuff to hear: “He (Jesus) began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” Oh man. That was radically hard for Peter and the others to hear. Hard!
Peter does not like what he hears, so he tries to change it. But He is set straight by Jesus, Who says back to him: “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” In a sense, He says to them: “Get your faith caps on, men, for you are more than just flesh and humanity. Peter, you just figured out, by faith, and by the Father’s revelation to you, that “I am the Christ.” Now let your soul now hear and feel and realize and grow in Me. The Cross is the saving acceptance of Me.”
Let’s apply this to our lives. A/ Aren’t there times when we have natural ears open to sound, but we’ll close them up to words we don’t want to hear, or to ones we don’t like? Own up to it. Lord, have mercy. B/Isn’t it true, too, that, while we can obviously hear what is said to us, and when it rings true, how there are times when we’ll hear but not accept it? That was Peter is this gospel—at this point. Like him, own up to it. Lord, have mercy.
When I am serving the part as like an umpire in marital couple counseling, I often mentor them in the strategy of getting each party to listen and to receive and to understand what is being said by their spouse. I won’t tolerate a retaliatory spirit or interrupting manner in either of them. I tell them that true listening means that you want to hear the other person says all the way through. How else can understanding come?
Peter and the others wanted to fight Jesus on His idea of a suffering Christ or suffering faith. But they were wrong on it. As we go through difficult matters today in society or in the Church, the people who want all things comfortable and on their side and no waves and all control over each matter, they are doomed to disappointment.
Yet, in those willing to suffer for doing good, like Jesus says in Mark 8, and like He said in the 8th Beatitude, God is with those people, and Jesus comments how these are the ones who lose their life into Christ and God’s will and are saved, and find their way Home. Jesus promises Heaven to such people.
We could stop here, but now I would like to apply this lesson of listening with open ears as how to act in our current crisis going on, and I’d like to tie it to the second aspect of letting people speak the truth to us—to best respond to the current crisis going on in the Catholic Church.
There are people who have been suffering something and have been silenced for a long time, like the deaf man in last week’s sojourn of Jesus up to the Decapolis. Yet today’s person is the victim in the clergy abuse crisis, and we put our attention on them, even as Jesus does for us. Like the deaf man in Mark 7, today’s victim is someone who is finally coming forth from a decades-long suffering (which is the impact of abuse upon them at a place supposed to be safe: the Church). As these victims speak of their past hurts, even of the times of the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s or so, and as they come forward to the Church—let us listen to them! Let us listen to them! Their tongue is loosed, like the healed person in Mark 7, and they have something to say. Let them speak. If we don’t let them, then we do them an injustice and act of cruel dis-inclusion.
And as we realize how the Church did not acknowledge and address many such cases of theirs, which involved reverends and bishops long keeping their gross, dark, unholy secrets, let’s have them exposed to the Light! Those accounts need to be known, and we should have shame how they occurred in the Faith Family, and we can blame the ones who covered it up. We can speak up: Wrong! We’re upset with you.
We can say to the victims: We are deeply sorry. What can we do for you now?
In the start of the homily, I said: There is a time to speak something hard and true, and be willing to speak up. That time is now, and we as a Church can speak and say: What in blazes was going on? What can be done about these once passed-over matters? How will justice be served? Who did what? We want information and accountability! No covering up or passing over any more!
We can speak hard words to our broken authority figures. They deserve to hear it. Yet the main thing here is the victims getting into a healing light, and to be heard, and to be able to move on in an honesty given them.
I fear all the lawyers that want to get involved to take money for damages. Indeed I do. But I care for the souls of the victims. Who will care for them?
We the faithful will suffer much for this hard, honest approach ahead, and it will surely be a suffering road for us, on account for the sins of others in the body of faith. As Jesus says: “Take up the cross, brother, sister…” well, you may not want to do it at all. You may be feisty like Peter and rebut God for such an asking of holy people to go by a suffering road…. I know those feelings, friends!
As I said a few weeks ago, we can’t just be all about pointing blame on someone, and see no responsibility upon ourselves. I’ll just say here: The bishops aren’t the only ones fallen short on living in The Truth. I learned this from a college woman this week.
The hard and true moral teachings of the Faith can be hard to teach and preach. We can fail ourselves in doing it. A young woman has just started at a Catholic university, where they have a mandatory freshman religion class. In it, she heard a vitally important message for the first time, one in which she never heard from her parents, teachers, friends, or clergy. She never heard of how fornication, and unchastity, and youth contraception, and other related things were serious sins and immoral acts. She wants to know why it took until she was 18 to hear it in the Church? Why was this truth withheld from her? She said that among many of her class, that most of them there never heard it addressed in their lives and families and parishes either.
She was grateful to the Catholic school to give her the straight talk about mortal sin. Why the cover-up of the truth to her?! She was pretty upset. She wondered about whether close people in her life truly cared for her. Why didn’t they give her this teaching of Jesus and the Church?
This question of hers was uncomfortable for me to hear, and I vowed to do better.
So, it is easy for anyone to avoid dealing with hard things about our faith, especially in the things that call for sacrifice, a deep faith, and a mind of Christ at work in our ‘noggin. This student compared her glad Christ-honoring revelation to what must be the poor immoral climate of many other schools. She could hear Jesus saying to them: “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do…. She is so grateful that people at her school actually think as God and His Bible and the Church’s Catechism does. That’s how she heard that passage at her university this weekend.
Let us consider the challenge of when it is a time to hear something difficult, and if we are willing to hear it, and the challenge, as well, of when it is a time to speak something hard and true, and we’re willing to speak it.
If you are open to it… then the Scriptures apply to you today. The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear and If you are Mine, then you’ll take up the Cross.