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Bible Reflections View Comments

Reclaiming a Sense of Wonder
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, September 9, 2012
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Too many of us have lost our ability to marvel. We get busy, we get practical, we narrow our focus to what has to be done. Before long, practicality gives way to cynicism. Some of this takes place naturally as we grow out of childhood. Some of it is a result of too much education. Like the child who sees through the magician’s trick and is then disappointed and disillusioned, we become too accustomed to explaining away what might seem miraculous with very practical explanations.

Even children today have become so accustomed to special effects in movies that they assume that most things have some sort of technological foundation. They don’t even realize that those very technologies should be the stuff of wonder and amazement, at least for a little while. The fact that we can watch movies on a device that fits in the palm of one hand was unthinkable even fifty years ago.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a man suffering the loss of both hearing and speech. Many of the miracles recorded in the Gospels involve a restoration of sight or hearing. In fact, according to the prophets, these are two signs of the messianic age. Isaiah proclaims in the first reading that when God brings salvation to the people, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.” So it’s no wonder that the people of Jesus’s day recognized in his actions the fulfillment of this great promise.

We’ve largely consigned healing to the medical profession. We rarely connect it with faith or miracles. This isn’t all bad. Advances in medicine and technology since the first century have made it possible for countless people to regain sight, hearing, and mobility. But it would be a mistake to lose the connection to the God who still moves through the wonders of modern medicine. The divine hand might not be as direct as it was when Jesus was putting his fingers into the deaf man’s ears, but make no mistake: It’s still there in the hands of the doctors and nurses.

Jesus tells the people not to talk about his healing of the man in today’s Gospel. We might take this to mean that we’re not supposed to talk about our religious experiences. Nothing could be further from the truth. But Jesus wants them to understand the whole picture. He wants them to appreciate that the wonder is not necessarily in the physical healing, as though it were some kind of magic trick, but rather in the fullness of who Jesus is.

One thing that hasn’t changed since the time of Jesus: Too often we still leave the proclamation of the Good News to the religious professionals. In doing so, we lose some of the wonder of a direct experience of God’s hand moving in our own lives and in the lives of those we touch. Whether we reflect on the natural miracle of the physical senses or on the deeper significance of being able to hear and proclaim the word of God, today’s Gospel reminds us that God wants us to be able to live our lives to the fullest extent possible.

The Incarnation set in motion a return to this fullness, the original blessing of creation. More than anything else, today’s readings encourage us to let ourselves be amazed at the wonder that surrounds us each and every day.



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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but she oon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p>
American Catholic Blog Those who want to participate more fully in salvation history are comforted by the fact that Jesus wants to walk with us in our suffering and wants to break bread to give us strength on our way.

 
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