Twenty-third Ordinary Sunday
People of impaired abilities
Points to note
To be politically correct, we talk of people with impaired abilities instead of handicapped. Whatever label we apply, however, we seem sadly to be faced with a potential embarrassing situation: we have to deal with and embrace them in the name of Jesus.
We now live in a world where it is possible for everyone to be beautiful and successful. We propagate such ideas that it is a virtue to achieve beauty and success while those who do not achieve them are losers. As such, we have largely been taught to avoid such losers in fear that we may be end up likewise. It is possible therefore we may have children today who may not have met anyone who is handicapped. If they have, it is very likely that the experience has not been presented to the child as a positive one.
We may not be able to reverse the years and the all-pervasive nature of society’s and perhaps, even the family’s conditioning of the child but if we can introduce the idea that there is an alternative view towards viewing the handicapped as undesired, I think we have succeeded.
Jesus proclaimed the Good News of the kingdom,
and cured all kinds of sickness among the people.
Jesus has just left Galilee and is travelling through some places outside of Israel on his way to Jerusalem.
The Lord be with you.
All: And also with you.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Mark
Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crows, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed; and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. “He has done all things well,” they said, “he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”
This is the Gospel of the Lord
Who are the key people in the story? Jesus; the deaf man; and the bunch of people who brought the deaf man to Jesus, (the ‘They’). Discuss how they felt: the They, Jesus and the deaf man. Why did They bring the deaf man to Jesus? Maybe it is to make fun of him, maybe it is to sincerely help him. But notice that Jesus took him aside in private: maybe Jesus knows the intentions of They and wanted to spare the deaf man from Them.
Discuss how do the children feel when they meet a deaf man? It is good to just let the discussion flow. Do not be judgemental about their responses, whether we view their responses as positive or not. Let Jesus be the judge.
How did the deaf man react? We don’t really know how did the deaf man react? How would you think a deaf man would react if there is such a crowd? Remember that many may have been taught to stay out of society’s way. Wouldn’t they be fearful, embarrassed over the commotion, intimidated by other people’s initiatives? Ask the children how they would feel if they are the deaf man in such a situation. Again, do not be judgemental about what we view to be positive or negative responses.
How did Jesus react to the deaf man? It is hard to tell from the reading how Jesus felt. Maybe, he felt pity, maybe he felt that there was something that needs to be done. Maybe, he felt that They need to be taught the right way to treating deaf people. Whatever it is, we know what he did: he healed the deaf man.
Discuss how the children think Jesus wanted They to handle the deaf man. Discuss how Jesus would want the children to deal with deaf and other handicapped people. Contrast this with what the children’s responses were earlier. While we should encourage the positive responses, do not shame the negative ones. Explain that society does not generally treat handicapped people well and Jesus may want us, as Christians, to teach society how he wants handicapped people to be treated.
Are handicapped people helpless people who need our help all the time? Look at the list of handicapped people below and I think we need their help to inspire our lives more than they need our help:
· Stevie Wonder is blind
· The world’s leading percussionist, Evelyn Glennie is deaf! She attends concerts, plays in orchestra and as soloist, gives interviews without hearing a sound!
· Helen Keller was born blind and deaf. She eventually learned to talk and use a typewriter. Try to imagine how it is like to learn if you can’t hear or see.
· Alexander Graham Bell thought his telephone invention was not good enough and would never have released it if it wasn’t for his wife, who though deaf, insisted that he did.
Do you know any similar inspiring handicapped people?
Have you noticed things that we take for granted:
· When you meet a blind person for a second time, he or she would know how high to put out his or her hand to shake yours?
· A deaf person can tell whether you are actually speaking or only moving your lips?
· A blind person standing by the road side in an unfamiliar place seems to know where the bus stop is, even without being told?