When I was 10 years old, my friends and I had a pastime that revolved around this question: What would be worse, to lose your sight, your hearing, th e use of your tongue or the senses of smell and touch?
What do you think? Without sight, we could not see the colors of the flowers, the glories of sunrise or sunset, the beauty of the moon, the stars, the mountains or the sea. Without hearing, we could not hear music, the songs of birds, the laughter of our friends. Without our tongues, we could not tell our loved ones, "I love you." or respond to the mercy of God with praise, or savor the taste of food. Without the senses of smell or touch, we could not enjoy the aroma of the flowers or a cool breeze.
The five senses also permit us the awareness of danger. Without sight, we could not see a speeding car in the street. Without hearing, we could not hear the growl of an animal in the night, or the breaking of a window by an intruder. Without smill, we could not smell something burning in the house. Without taste, we could not detect something poisonous in our food. And without the ability to speak, we could not tell others when we hurt.
What would be the worst, then? Really there is no answer to this question. All of our senses are blessings from God. But, look at the example in today's Gospel. The deaf-mute could not hear or talk. How could he communicate with his friends? By touch or by hand-signals, although modern sign language had not been invented then. The poor fellow!
But the most important question is, how could he communicate with God? He could not hear the Word of God preached, nor could he respond with songs of praise.
This man did not have the physical abilities to respond to the Gospel. Actually we all are in the same state spiritually. We are blind, deaf and dumb spiritually. We cannot know God by our own strength or reason. Most of us have the physical capabilities, but because of our sinful nature, we do not want to hear or respond to the Word of God. We cannot see the face of God in Jesus Christ. This is the natural condition of all human beings.
Spiritually, we have no sight, hearing, speech or other abilities. We are dead in our sins.
However, like the deaf-mute, we do not have to be lost. The deaf-mute had friends who brought him to Jesus. Do you have friends who do not know Jesus? Possibly some of you know someone who is deaf, mute or blind physically. Thanks be to God, nowadays we can communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ in braille or international sign language.
But it does not matter if we lack the physical capabilities or not, those who do not believe in Jesus Christ need to receive the forgiveness of God and the promise of eternal life. You could bring these friends into the presence of Christ.
Furthermore, we learn from this story that the Savior uses means of grace to reach every one of us. Jesus communicated with the deaf-mute by the touch of His hands and the moistening of his tongue. In a mysterious way, the Holy Spirit touched the heart of the deaf-mute and by faith and the grace of God he was healed.
God communicates with all of us by His chosen means of grace. We have the Word of God in our own language. Why does God not require those who would receive the words of eternal life to learn Hebrew or Greek, the original languages of the Bible. Because God wants all to hear the message of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection in the language of their heart. The translation of the Bible into thousands of languages is part of the work of the Holy Spirit and the mission of the church.
What's more, God has given us the sacraments of baptims and the Lord's Supper. In these sacraments, we receive the promises of God along with visible elements. That is to say, as in a mysterious manner, the Son of God was incarnated as the son of Mary and lived among us for a time, Christ now communicates His presence to us in physical forms, that we can understand, despite our lack of spiritual awareness.
Let us thank God, then, for His Word and the sacraments, by which God transforms us from deaf-mutes to those who hear the Word and respond with praise. Amen.
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