In a heartfelt appeal at the Angelus on Sunday, 5 September, the Holy Father prayed that Afghans “seeking a new life” may be welcomed and protected by many countries. Earlier, the Pope had reflected on the day’s Gospel Reading of Mark in which Jesus heals a deaf man with a speech impediment. The following is a translation of his words which he shared in Italian with the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Gospel for today’s liturgy presents Jesus who heals a deaf man with a speech impediment. What is striking about this story is how the Lord performs this prodigious sign. He does it like this: he takes the deaf man aside, puts his finger into the man’s ears, and touches his tongue with saliva. Then he looks up to heaven, groans, and says to him: “Ephphatha”, that is, “Be opened!” (cf Mk 7:33-34). In other healings, for infirmities as serious as paralysis or leprosy, Jesus did not do as many things. So why does he do all of this, even though they had only asked him to lay his hands on the sick man (cf. v.32)? Why does he do these things? Maybe it was because that person’s condition had a particularly symbolic value. Being deaf and mute is a sickness, but it is also a symbol. And this symbol speaks to all of us. What is this about? Deafness. That man was unable to speak because he could not hear. To heal the cause of his infirmity, Jesus, in fact, placed his fingers first of all in the man’s ears, then his mouth, but his ears first.
We all have ears, but very often we are unable to hear. Why is this? Brothers and sisters, there is an interior deafness that we can ask Jesus to touch and heal today. And that interior deafness is worse than the physical kind because it is the deafness of the heart. Taken up with haste by so many things to say and do, we do not find time to stop and listen to those who speak to us. We run the risk of becoming impervious to everything and not making room for those who need to be heard. I am thinking about children, young people, the elderly, the many who do not really need words and sermons, but to be heard. Let us ask ourselves: how is my capacity to listen going? Do I let myself be touched by people’s lives? Do I know how to spend time with those who are close to me in order to listen? This regards all of us, but in a special way, also priests. The priest must listen to people, not be in a rush, but listen and see how he can help, but after having listened. And all of us: first listen, then respond. Think about family life: how many times do we talk without listening first, repeating the same things, always the same things! Incapable of listening, we always say the same things, or we do not let the other person finish talking, expressing themselves, and we interrupt them. Starting a dialogue often happens not through words but silence, by not insisting, by patiently beginning anew to listen to others, hearing about their struggles and what they carry inside. The healing of the heart begins with listening. Listening. This restores the heart. “But Father, there are boring people who always say the same things”. Listen to them. And then, when they have finished talking, you may speak, but listen to everything.
And the same is true with the Lord. It is good to inundate him with requests, but it would be better that we first of all listen to him. Jesus requests this. In the Gospel, when they ask him what is the first commandment, he answers: “Hear, O Israel”. Then he adds the first commandment: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart… [and] your neighbour as yourself” (Mk 12:28-31). But first of all, “Hear, O Israel”. You, listen. Do we remember to listen to the Lord? We are Christians, but sometimes with the thousands of words we hear every day, we do not find a moment to let a few words of the Gospel resound in us. Jesus is the Word: if we do not stop to listen to him, he moves on. If we do not stop to listen, Jesus will move on. Saint Augustine said, “I fear that Jesus will pass by me unnoticed”. And the fear was to let him pass by without hearing him. But if we dedicate time to the Gospel, we will find the secret to our spiritual health. This is the medicine: every day a little silence and listening, fewer useless words and more of the Word of God. Always with the Gospel in your pocket which helps us greatly. Today, as on the day of our Baptism, let us hear the words of Jesus addressed to us: “Ephphatha, be opened!” Open your ears. Jesus, I want to open myself to your Word; Jesus, open myself to listening to you; Jesus, heal my heart from being closed, heal my heart from haste, heal my heart from impatience.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was open to hearing the Word which became flesh in her, help us every day to listen to her Son in the Gospel and to our brothers and sisters with a docile heart, with a patient heart, and with an attentive heart.
After the Angelus the Holy Father continued:
Yesterday, in Catamarca Argentina, Mamerto Esquiú, Friar Minor and Bishop of Cordoba, was beatified. Finally, an Argentinian Blessed! He was a zealous proclaimer of the Word of God in building up the ecclesiastical community and also civil society. May his example help us to always unite prayer and the apostolate, and to serve peace and fraternity. A round of applause for the new Blessed!
In these troubled times that see Afghans seeking refuge, I pray for the most vulnerable among them. I pray that many countries will welcome and protect those seeking a new life. I also pray that the internally displaced people may receive assistance and the necessary protection. May young Afghans receive education, an essential good for human development. And may all Afghans, whether at home, in transit, or in host countries, live with dignity, in peace and fraternity with their neighbours.
I assure my prayers for the people of the United States of America who have been hit by a strong hurricane in recent days. May the Lord receive the souls of the deceased and sustain those suffering from this calamity.
In the coming days the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, will be celebrated. And then the two feasts of Yom Kippur and Sukkot. I extend my heartfelt good wishes to all my brothers and sisters of the Jewish religion: may the New Year be rich in fruits of peace and good for those who walk faithfully in the Lord’s Law.
Next Sunday I will travel to Budapest for the conclusion of the International Eucharistic Congress. My pilgrimage will continue after the Mass for a few days in Slovakia, and will conclude the following Wednesday with the great popular celebration of Our Lady of Sorrows, Patroness of that country. These will be days marked by adoration and prayer in the heart of Europe. While I greet affectionately those who have prepared this journey — and I thank you — and those who await me and whom I myself wholeheartedly wish to meet, I ask everyone to accompany me in prayer, and I entrust the visits I will undertake to the intercession of so many heroic confessors of the faith, who in those places bore witness to the Gospel amid hostility and persecution. May they help Europe to bear witness today too, not so much in words but above all in deeds, with works of mercy and hospitality, the good news of the Lord who loves us and saves us. Thank you!
And now my greetings to you, dear people of Rome and pilgrims! In particular, I offer my best wishes to the Legion of Mary, which is celebrating its hundredth anniversary: May God bless you and may the Virgin protect you! I greet the young people of “Opera della Chiesa”, the children of Faenza and those of Castenedolo who have received Confirmation and First Communion, the group from Arta Terme and the Polish and Lithuanian faithful accompanied by their friends from Abruzzo.
Today is the memorial of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, known to all as Mother Teresa. A big round of applause! I address my greetings to all the Missionaries of Charity, working around the world and offering often heroic service. I am thinking in particular of the Sisters of the “Dono di Maria” (Gift of Mary homeless shelter), here in the Vatican.
I wish everyone a happy Sunday. Please do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch. Arrivederci!