Ten years' ago, I felt a calling to the diaconate and discussed this with several people in the parish. When I told a good friend that I would have to go to school for about five years, he commented that I knew my Catholic faith well and shouldn't need all these classes. As I took classes, I realized that there were large gaps in my knowledge of the faith. I knew a lot in some areas but very little in others. When I read articles in the paper criticizing church teaching, often I couldn't articulate why the church taught what it taught. In short, I was deaf and dumb when it came to my faith. I needed my ears and mouth to be opened like Jesus did in today's gospel.
The deaf man with the speech impediment in the gospel points to our own difficulty in hearing the message of the gospel as it is proclaimed in our own time. Each of us is in continual need of being healed of our own deafness—not the physical deafness of the man in the gospel, but a more critical impediment: our faculty for hearing with our souls. We go through life struggling to hear the Word more clearly. Because if we cannot hear the Word clearly, we cannot proclaim it clearly or live it out well in our daily lives. Learning to listen in this way to what God is saying is a lifelong discipline.
For many people today, the words we will soon declare in our confession of faith, the Creed, are simply absurd. They have no meaning. The atheist, for example, finds absurd the notion of a loving God who, out of love for you and me, would send his son into the world to be crucified. Such a person is impeded from hearing the voice of God in the words we proclaim. His or her deafness is as real as that faced by Jesus in the gospel.
And what about us? Do the words we recite in the Creed seem absurd to us? Of course they do, because they are such huge thoughts! Anyone who is not a little hard of hearing when it comes to the great truths we proclaim is not being honest with themselves. We are all impeded in our hearing of the Word of God, not because we are insincere or because we don't try, but simply because of the magnitude of the task. We go through life begging Jesus to heal our deafness a little more, to remove a little more of the impediment, to help us to listen and truly hear what God wants us to hear.
And how does the cure work? Is it done with touching and spitting, as Jesus did in the gospel? No, it happens through our prayer and ultimately our obedience.
This week we witnessed the obedience of the court clerk in Kentucky as she refused to sign the marriage licenses of same sex couples. She was being obedient to her conscience. As a result, she suffered the consequences and went to jail. I can sympathize with her because, as a deacon, I might someday have a same sex couple come to me to get married. Odds are, when I follow my conscience and refuse to marry them, I too will suffer some consequence.
Most of us won't be tested as this clerk was. But we may on occasion need to support others whose faith and conscience is tested. More and more we are seeing that our society's laws are contrary to God's laws. And often we cannot even be quiet bystanders in this battle. But, we must know our faith and have a well-formed conscience so that we can play our role in this spiritual battle.
Healing our deafness and following our conscience requires that we learn our Catholic faith. It isn't enough for us to just attend mass on Sunday. The Sunday readings and homily give us a good start on our faith journey. But, we need more. You may think that you know your faith, like I did ten years' ago. But, when you have to defend what you believe to your children, your neighbor, or your co-worker, you'll probably be at a loss for words.
This fall, we are offering several faith formation programs to help all of us learn our faith. We are offering the second part of the Symbolon series which will focus on living the faith including those teachings on morality and marriage which impact our day-to- day lives. Once again, we will offer this excellent program two times - between the 9 and 11 o'clock masses once a month starting next week and weekly on Monday nights starting a week from Monday.
Also, on the first two Mondays in October, Father Earl Fernandes, the Dean of the Athenaeum and an outstanding speaker and teacher, will be here to offer sessions on beginning of life and end of life issues. He will discuss our Church's teaching that a person from the tiniest embryo to an elderly adult is always worthwhile and that everyone has inherent dignity because we are all made in the image of God, not because of our usefulness to society.
I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities to learn your faith. Once again this year, our high school PSR class will be attending the monthly Sunday faith formation sessions. For those parents who have high schoolers in these PSR classes, I would encourage you to attend these monthly sessions. This will provide an excellent opportunity for you to discuss these important topics with your high school student.
In my homily two weeks' ago, I asked us to decide if we were fans or disciples of Jesus. A disciple of Jesus knows Jesus and can proclaim and defend the teachings of His church. Become a disciple of Jesus. Learn and spread the good news. Arm yourself for the on-going spiritual battle.