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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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