When desires meet, the miracle takes place. We have seen this work so often during crisis, whether on a personal or social level.
I’ve experienced this with many families facing a crisis, be it an illness or some threat or danger. I’ve witnessed this in organizations or communities that are put to the test by some major setback or challenge. As a people, we’ve gone through this during calamities.
The story of the healing of the deaf-mute man in today’s Gospel is about such a meeting of desires. Perhaps more appropriately, it is the confluence of desires that enables the miracle to take place: the desire of the man to be healed, the desire of his friends who interceded with Christ for his healing, and the desire of Christ to heal him.
In the confluence of desires, miracles happen because we set aside personal interests and personal agenda. When the desire is for the good of others, it brings out the best in us. When we are at our best, the miracle happens.
Last Wednesday, I was watching the Democratic Party’s National Convention, which culminated in the nomination speech of former President Bill Clinton. What I found most moving, over and above Clinton’s brilliant speech, was the speech of Sr. Simone Campbell, who is one of the founders of “Nuns on the Bus.”
‘Nuns on the Bus’
“Nuns on the Bus” was founded by a group of Catholic nuns who literally got on a bus and went around several states to support the reelection bid of President Barack Obama. They stopped in towns and cities and talked to people about their cause.
Sr. Simone’s refrain was “We share responsibility.” She narrated three stories of ordinary citizens with concerns relating to healthcare, welfare and education. Each story showed how both the helper and the one being helped share responsibility for the well being of each and everyone.
She ended with these lines: “Listen to one another with kindness and compassion. Listen to one another rather than shout at one another… We care for the 100-percent. This is what will make for liberty and freedom.”
This is a message not just for the American people, but for us Filipinos as well, and all of humanity. We must “listen to one another with kindness and compassion. Listen to one another rather than shout at one another.” Ultimately, it is truly caring for one another, especially for the weakest and least among us, that will set us free.
The Gospel shows us the sensitivity of Christ listening to the “cry of the poor,” the cry of the deaf-mute. Christ heard this, and what is even more moving is how he brings the deaf-mute aside to heal him in private.
Several scripture commentaries point out that the life of the deaf-mute was very embarrassing and agonizing. He could walk, move around, see and feel, but since he could not hear, he also could not speak. It was not so much the speech that was the problem, but the inability to hear.
Yet it was the speech impediment that became very obvious. And it was also what led to the ridicule of the mute person.
Christ’s desire to heal was heightened by his care and compassion for the deaf-mute. He saw not just the man’s physical want, but more so his agony and pain at being voiceless, literally and figuratively. Christ saw how this man was broken.
Christ’s desire, guided by care and compassion, made him bring the deaf-mute aside and, in such solitude with Christ, the man’s dignity was restored. The miracle was the man being made whole again.
The desire of the friends of the deaf-mute to have him healed called attention to the man’s plight, and their desire and faith helped move Christ to heal the man. Such miracles often show a network of compassion, the confluence of desires inspired by care and compassion.
This is Sr. Simone’s message. Indeed, we are responsible for one another. And we must be responsible for one another with kindness and compassion.
This message speaks to us at a most appropriate time. Over two years ago, our people and nation believed there was hope for a better life, and with a miraculous turn of events—in the confluence of desires for this better life—the yearning for daang matuwid (the straight path) brought people together to elect a president they believed embodied this desire.
After over two years, much has been done, but so much more needs fixing. Real and lasting reform does not happen in a few years. It’s good to remember that the daang matuwid is not just the straight path, but the straight and narrow path.
The image of the narrow path symbolizes a period of purification. It is the stage of the journey where desires are laid bare, when the concern for the common and greater good helps purify these desires; from being self-centered into becoming selfless and other-centered.
The process leading to selflessness and other-centeredness involves growing in care and compassion. We hope and dream of a society where everyone is free from ignorance, poverty, hunger and sickness; and liberated from a sense of victimhood that makes people more vulnerable to manipulation and oppression.
We want to be able to dream of a better future for ourselves and our family; and, more, to be able to work hard and decently to attain this dream not just for ourselves, but also for our community.
Caring for all
“We share responsibility.” We are responsible for one another. Furthermore, we must care “for the 100-percent” and not just those we know and with whom we have shared interests. The call is to care for all, especially those who have less—the disadvantaged and the voiceless.
When we were in college back in the ’70s, it was the height of Liberation Theology or Theo Lib.
Theo Lib presented the Catholic faith in a way that was then considered radical and pro-poor. It advocated structural changes in societies to help address social injustice and inequality. Because of that, Theo Lib was often associated with left-leaning political or ideological orientations.
With the collapse of communism, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of China to the world, the appeal and impact of Liberation Theology seem to have waned. Add to this the rise of a global outlook and consciousness across many areas of our life. Thanks to technology, we are more and more becoming one global community.
That’s why, now more than ever, this message is a Christian imperative: “Listen to one another with kindness and compassion. Listen to one another rather than shout at one another… We care for the 100-percent. This is what will make for liberty and freedom.”
We must begin in our communities—the family we belong to, the neighborhood we live in, the church that nurtures our faith, the office/organization we work with, the schools our children attend, the groups we influence, the world we share with humanity.
The confluence of our desires will enable the miracle of a caring, kind and compassionate world to come into being, a world where the helper and the helped share the responsibility of working for the well-being of everyone else.
This is the Kingdom of God in our midst—a Kingdom of Love and Compassion, the confluence of God’s desire for us to experience his everlasting love, with our desire for the freedom and liberty that only God can give; in short, our desire for God himself.