23rd Sunday O T Year B
Isaiah 35:4-7 / James 2:1-5 / Mark 7:31-37
Being selective can have a couple of meanings.
It may mean that one is fussy and selects only what is desired and wouldn’t consider the rest.
Or it may mean that one is discerning and after careful consideration will choose only what is good and necessary.
And the word selective is also used to describe other words – selective attention, selective memory, selective observation, selective quoting, selective hearing, selective listening.
And talking about selective hearing and selective listening, there is a little difference.
Selective listening is a listening technique that filters and summarizes in order to achieve comprehension.
While the goal of listening is to fully understand what someone is saying, in practice, people don’t always fully listen.
People make choices when listening. They apply filters. So they half-listen to get a general impression of what’s said.
When it comes to selective hearing, it can be said that we have the ability to hear certain sounds and cut off the rest. But not so for those who wear a hearing aid.
It seems that the hearing aid would just take in all the sounds and it’s a matter of which sound is the loudest.
Nonetheless, the hearing aid is certainly a great help for those who have a hearing problem.
There is a story of an elderly gentleman who had serious hearing problems for a number of years.
Finally he went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear almost 100%.
The elderly gentleman went back to the doctor after a month and the doctor said, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.”
To which the gentleman said, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. And you know what! I’ve changed my will three times!”
It’s wonderful what the hearing aid can do, although some don’t want to use it because it can be quite irritating at times.
In the gospel, there is an account of Jesus healing a deaf man who also had a speech impediment.
And indeed, the man’s ears were opened and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly.
But for those who were there, and who could hear, it seemed that they had a listening problem.
Because Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more He insisted, the more widely they published it.
Certainly their admiration was unbounded, so much so that they didn’t even want to listen to what Jesus had ordered.
As for the man who was cured of his deafness and speech impediment, it would be interesting to know what would be his direction in life.
He can now hear and he would have to choose and discern what to listen to and decide his direction in life.
There is a story of a group of frogs that set off on a hike, traveling through the woods. Then two of them fell into a deep pit.
When the other frogs saw how deep the pit was, they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead. The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up, out of the pit, with all their might.
The other frogs kept shouting at them to stop, repeating that they were as good as dead. Finally, one of the frogs lost heart and gave into fear. He believed what the other frogs were saying and gave up. He fell down and died.
The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die. But he jumped even harder and finally made it out!
When he got out, the other frogs were surprised and said, “Did you not hear us?”
The frog explained to them that he was rather deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.
There is power of life and death in the tongue. An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day.
A destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them.
We have to be careful what we choose to listen to and what to believe. Whether we hear as well as Superman or as poorly as Beethoven, we need to be selective in our listening.
We need to listen to what comes from God and tune out the rest.
What comes from God are words that give life and fill us with faith, hope and love.
When we hear words of encouragement, words of correction, words of forgiveness and healing, words of wisdom, words of enlightenment, let us be opened to those words.
Those are words spoken by people who care for us and love us, and in and through those people, God is speaking to us.
When we listen to those words, we will in turn speak those words.
Then others will also know that God is speaking to them.
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.