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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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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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