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Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

The month of September is dedicated to devotion to the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary. Let us console the heart of our Blessed Mother through this devotion! This Sunday I share with you a meditation on listening to God. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:

“Listening to God and speaking to Him - The miraculous cure of a deaf mute: The liturgy of this Sunday’s Holy Mass is a call to hope and absolute confidence in the Lord. In a moment of dark-ness the prophet Isaiah lifts up his voice to comfort the Chosen People who live in exile. (Is. 35:4-7) He announces the happy re-turn to their homeland: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God; He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you. And the prophet predicts wonders which will have their complete fulfillment with the coming of the Messiah: Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ear of the deaf be unstopped; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the dry land. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground springs of water. With Christ, all mankind is healed, and the inexhaustible springs of grace convert the world into a new creation. The Lord has trans-formed everything, and especially men’s souls.

The Gospel of the Holy Mass narrates the cure of a deaf-mute. (Mark 7:31-37) The Lord brought him apart, placed His fingers in his ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Afterwards, Jesus raised His eyes to Heaven and said to him, ‘Ephpheta!’ (that is, ‘Be opened!’) At once the man’s ears were opened; he was freed from the impediment, and began to speak plainly.

The fingers can signify a powerful Divine action (cf. Ex. 8:19; Cant. 8:4; Luke 11:20), and saliva is thought to have a certain ability to heal wounds. Although it is the words of Christ that work the cure, He wished, as on other occasions, to use visible, material objects which in some way were intended to express the more pro-found action the Sacraments were later going to work in souls. (cf. M. Schmaus, Dogmatic Theology, VI, The Sacraments) Already in the first centuries, and throughout many generations (cf. A. G. Martimort, The Church at Prayer, Barcelona), the Church used these same gestures of the Lord at the moment of Baptism, while she prayed over the one to be baptized: May the Lord Jesus, Who made the deaf hear and the dumb speak, grant that at the proper time you may hear His Word and proclaim the Faith. (cf. Ritual of Baptism, Baptism of infants)

We can see in this cure which our Lord performs an image of His acting in souls: He frees man from sin, He opens his ears to hear the Word of God and loosens his tongue to praise and proclaim the marvelous works of God. At the moment of Baptism, the Holy Spirit, digitus paternae dexterae (cf. Hymn, Veni Creator), the fin-

ger of the right hand of God the Father, as the liturgy proclaims, freed our hearing to listen to the Word of God, and unloosed our tongue in order to announce it throughout the world; and this is continued during our whole life. St. Augustine, in commenting on this passage of the Gospel, says that the tongue of someone united to God will speak of the Good, will bring to agreement those who are divided, will console those who weep. God will be praised, Christ will be announced. (St. Augustine, Sermon 311, 11) These things we will do if we have our hearing attentive to the continuous inspirations of the Holy Spirit and if we have our tongue ready to speak of God, uninhibited by human respect.

We should not be deaf in the presence of religious ignorance: There is a deafness of soul which is worse than that of the body, since no one is more deaf than he who does not want to hear. There are many who have their ears closed to the Word of God, and many, too, who become more and more insensitive to the innumerable invitations of Grace. An apostolate which is patient, tenacious, full of understanding, accompanied by prayer, will make many of our friends hear the voice of God and be themselves converted into new apostles who will speak of Him everywhere. This is one of the missions which we receive in Baptism. (cf. Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 33)

We Christians cannot remain dumb when we must speak of God and transmit His message openly: parents to their children, teach-ing them their prayers and the basics of their Faith from their infancy; a friend to his friend, when the opportune moment presents it-self, and even making it arise if necessary;

an office worker to his colleagues, offering them, by

his word and example, a cheerful model to imitate; the student at the

university, among those with whom he spends so many hours. We

cannot remain silent during the countless opportunities the Lord

places before us, in which we can show to everyone the path of

sanctity in the middle of the world. There are even moments in

which it would be unnatural for a good Christian not to say something

supernatural: the death of a loved one, a visit to a sick person

(what broad horizons can be opened to those who suffer, if we ask

them to offer their discomfort for some intention, for the Church or

the Pope!), the conversation that touches upon some slanderous story

in the news… what opportunities to give good doctrine! People

expect it of us and we cannot defraud them by remaining silent.

There are many reasons to speak of the beauty of our Faith, of the

incomparable joy of having Christ. And, among others, there is the

responsibility given in Baptism not to let anyone lose the Faith

through the avalanche of ideas and doctrinal errors that leaves many

defenseless. The enemies of God and of His Church, manipulated

by the devil’s unremitting hatred, are relentless in their activities

and organization. With ‘exemplary’ constancy they prepare their

cadres, run their schools, appoint leaders and deploy agitators. In

an undercover way - but very effectively - they spread their ideas

and sow, in homes and places of work, a seed that is deliberately

destructive of religion. What is there that we Christians should not

be ready to do in order to serve our God, of course always with the

Truth? (J. Escriva, The Forge, 466) Are we perhaps content to remain

passive? The mission we received on the day of our Baptism

must be put into practice all our life, in all circumstances.

Speak with clarity and simplicity; this holds true, too, in spiritual

direction: As announced by the pr ophet Isaiah in the First

Reading, the moment has arrived in which the eyes of the blind will

be opened, the ears of the deaf be unstopped; the lame will leap like

the stag, the tongue of the dumb will sing… These wonders are accomplished

in our time in a way immensely more profound than that

envisioned by the prophet; they take place in the soul docile to the

Holy Spirit, Who has been sent by the Lord. We ask for the Faith

and for daring to announce clearly and openly the magnolia Dei (cf.

Acts 2:1), the marvelous works of God we see around us, just as the

Apostles did after Pentecost. St. Augustine advises us: If you love

God, draw to you all those who gather around or live in your house,

so that all will come to love Him. If you love the Body of Christ,

which is the unity of the Church, impel everyone to rejoice in God

and tell them with David: ‘Magnify with me the Lord, and let us

together praise His Holy Name’ (Prov. 21:28); and in this do not be

calculating or stingy, but rather win for the Lord all those you can

by whatever means possible, according to your abilities: exhorting

them, bearing them up, pleading with them, arguing with them and

giving them the reasons for the things of Faith, with all gentleness

and tact. (St. Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms, 33:6-7) May

we not remain silent when God wants to say so much through our


St. Mark has preserved the Aramaic word used by our Lord,

‘Ephpheta’ - be opened. Many times has the Holy Spirit made us

aware, in different ways, of this imperative counsel in the depths of

our soul. Our mouth has had to be opened and our tongue loosed in

order to speak about the state of our own soul with clarity, being

very sincere, explaining with simplicity what has occurred in our

lives, our desires for holiness and the temptations of the enemy, our

little victories and our setbacks, if there have been any. Our hearing

has had to be cleared in order that we may be attentive to the many

lessons and suggestions granted to us by the Master in spiritual direction.

(cf. R. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three A ges of the Interior

Life, I, p. 295 etc.)

The difficult battle, if it is fought by one who is armed with sincerity

and docility, will always be won; engaged in by someone equipped

with deceit, in isolation, and with pride in his own opinion, it will

invariably be lost. It is the Lord who cures and Who chooses the

means He will use - means that will always be disproportionate. St. Vincent Ferrer affirmed that God

never gives His grace to one who, having available to him someone

capable of instructing and directing him, chooses to despise this most

efficacious means of sanctification, believing that he is sufficient

unto himself and that by his efforts alone he can seek and find what is

necessary for salvation… Another who, having a director, elects to

obey him without reserve and in everything, will arrive more easily

than he would do if alone, although he might well possess a keen

intelligence and have at hand knowledgeable books on spiritual matters…

(St. Vincent Ferrer, Treatise on the Spiritual Life, II, 1)

In the Most Blessed Virgin we find the perfect model of one who

listens with attentive ear to what God is asking, in order to put it into

practice from a standpoint of complete availability. Indeed, at the

Annunciation Mary entrusted herself to God completely, with ‘full

submission of intellect and will’ (Dei Verbum, 5), manifesting ‘the

obedience of Faith’ to Him Who spoke to her through His messenger.

(St. John Paul II, Encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, 25 March 1987,

13) We go to her, in finishing our prayer, asking her to teach us how

to listen attentively to everything that comes from God, and to put it

into practice.” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez)

Through the intercession of Our Mother of Sorrows, St. Joseph, St.

Michael and St. Paul, may God grant us the Grace to hear and listen

to His Voice!

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Kasel


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