"At that time, Jesus departing from the district of Tyre came by way of Sidon to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the district of Decapolis. And they brought to Him one deaf and dumb, and entreated Him to lay His hand upon him. And taking him aside from the crowd, He put His fingers into the man's ears, and spitting, He touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, 'Ephpheta,' that is, 'Be opened.' And his ears were at once opened, and the bond of his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak correctly..."
Today is the Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost. In the traditional Roman Calendar, the gospel reading tells of Our Lord curing the man who was deaf and dumb. Today's homily at St John the Beloved reminded us, despite the wealth of technology to facilitate such ends, of our own inability to communicate, and especially to listen. The good Father emphasized the importance of silence in the traditional Roman Mass, especially at the height of the Consecration. One is reminded of "the still small voice" which summoned Elias from the cave.
The message of that lesson was met with a sad irony during the Mass, when at least two particular moments of silence were punctuated by the ringtones of cell phones. Of course, there is rarely a Sunday that goes by when this does not happen. Somewhere in the distance, I smell a notice in the parish bulletin...
There has also been relative silence on this page of late. For reasons unplanned, this writer has taken leave of his constant missives to listen.
Much has been written about the Holy Father's visit to Australia for World Youth Day. To hear the mainstream press tell it, you would think that the only thing that happened, was his apology for the scandal of clerical sexual abuse. Fortunately, some people who were there knew better. Indeed, it was announced "ex post facto" that Pope Benedict met with four victims, inviting them to a private Mass, and speaking to each one for several minutes. The victims, who wished to remain anonymous, were his most ardent defenders when the so-called "reform" groups started belly-aching 1) that they weren't included, 2) that those who were chosen were most likely not to be too critical of the Holy Father, and 3) that it was only talk and no action. These are the same bozos who fawn over the musings of those pseudo-scholars who call for less centralized authority in the Church. Well, here's a question for some of you intellectual giants out there: how can you be "more accountable" as an authority figure when you are less accountable as... well, an authority?
Don't strain yourself too hard trying to answer that one.
Whether you're a Latin-Mass-or-die Traditionalist, or an Eco-Spiritual Earth Mother Goddess Tree Hugger, nothing happens fast enough, or often enough. Nobody listens to your concerns, and the Church is going to Hell in a handbasket. Oh, and don't forget that hallucination known in polite company as "the spirit of Vatican II." Just try and find someone who can tell you what it is. Adherents of fidelity to Catholic teaching are outraged over cranky middle-aged women who think they can ordain priestesses. The iconoclasm reigns on in church renovations, and errors against the Faith continue to be propagated, even by bishops.
Does this surprise anyone? Do they listen closely? If they did, they would hear the final death throes of a generation of aging children, gearing up for a last round of adolescent rebellion. Most of them are now pushing sixty, at least. Ten years from now, they'll be pushing seventy. In twenty years, they'll be at pushing eighty. Their own advocacy of contraception is phasing them out of existence, so who will take their place? If the cry of the psalmist were to be answered, "How long, O Lord," couldn't we narrow it down to about the year 2015 or 2020 at the earliest??? At least we've got a timetable. Most of you reading this could manage to wait that long, especially when the positive effects of Pope Benedict's reign can be felt already, if just barely.
Especially if you're more than ten years younger than I am.
Some days I walk around town, and watch people walk down the street. There are moments when I see several people within a few feet of each other talking on cell phones as they walk. I hear just enough of the conversation, to know that it's not exactly timely. They could wait a few hours, a few minutes, to gossip about who said what to whom and did you hear about when she did this or that. Yeah, it's usually a woman, but I'm not sure what that means. Maybe they should meet for coffee more often. We have coffee bars on every street corner now. What's holding them back?
If I'm on a bus, and my cell phone goes off -- it vibrates, as I rarely use the ringtone -- I'll answer it. My end of the conversation is short, and low key. Sure. I'm on the bus. Five, maybe ten minutes. Yeah, I remember. Get there when I get there. Bye. I've been blessed with some decent human beings on the bus lately. We carry on real conversations. Sometimes it's about more than the weather. There are two ladies who are... well, socially challenged. Maybe I looked at them cross-eyed once, and they can't get past it. Until science finds a cure, I really can't help them.
I've been reading the comboxes on the blogs more often. The same people say the same things. They are easy to refute, because they are so damned predictable. At this point, there is still some sport in setting them straight. It only gets annoying when you find that one dilettante who thinks a little too highly of themselves. Some of them show remarkable stamina. Being a pain in the ass is hard work. I don't know how they do it.
But I do know that, for all our means of communicating, we really don't. That parish volunteer committee made up of people who are no smarter than you are, who won't give you the time of day, are the same people who want to stretch across the aisle and hold hands with you during the singing of the Lord's Prayer. When they're done playing Romper Room, that hand will hold the knife in your back. Until then, at least you know where it's been. You'll also know it's the hand of someone who can't wait for the love-fest to end so they can go back to ignoring you.
But I have something in common with Bianca Jagger (the former wife of You-Know-Who from You-Know-What-Band. See photo above). You see, like her, I can't get no satisfaction. I long for the "smells and bells," to have my senses drawn away from all earthly cares. I want to encounter the Divine, to step through that portal, one that is opened by the actions of a mere mortal who is "in persona Christi."
"...and He charged them to tell no one. But the more He charged them, so much the more did they wonder, saying, 'He has done all things well. He has made both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.'"
Ephpheta. Be opened.