This sermon tells us how a man who truly loves God, whose ears have been opened to receive the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit, is neither lifted up in joy nor cast down in sorrow.
Mark vii.37. -- "He hath done all things well: He maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak."
WE read in the Gospel for this day, that as our blessed Lord was going from one place to another, they brought unto Him a man who was born deaf and dumb; as must needs be; for he who is born deaf must also be dumb; for since he has never heard, he does not know what speech is. The Lord put His fingers into the ears of this deaf man, and touched his tongue with His spittle, and said, "Be opened." And when the people saw what was done, they came together and wondered at the miracle; saying: "He hath done all things well; He maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak."
Children, it behoves us greatly to mark what it is that makes men deaf, like the man in the Gospel. From the time that the first man opened his ears to the voice of the Enemy, he became deaf thereby, and all we after him, so that we cannot hear or understand the sweet voice of the Eternal Word. Yet we know that the Eternal Word is still so unutterably nigh to us inwardly, in the very principle of our being, that not even man himself, his own nature, his own thoughts, nor aught that can be named, or said, or understood, is so nigh or planted so deep within him, as the Eternal Word is in man. And it is ever speaking in man; but he hears it not by reason of the sore deafness that has come upon him. Whose fault is this? I say that something has covered man's ears, and stopped them up that he may not hear this Word; and his sense is so benumbed that he has become dumb, not knowing his own self. If he desired to speak of what is within him, he could not; for he does not know how it stands with him, nor discern his own ways and works. The cause whereof is that the Enemy has whispered in his ear, and he has listened to the voice, and hence has he grown deaf and dumb. What is this most hurtful whispering of the Enemy? It is every disorderly image or suggestion that starts up in thy mind, whether belonging to thy creature likings and wishes, or the world and the things thereof; whether it be thy wealth, reputation, friends or relations, or thy own flesh, or whatever it be that lays hold of thy fancy, making thee to like or do somewhat. Through all these he has his access to thy soul; for he is ever at hand; and as he marks to what a man is inclined inwardly or outwardly, what he likes and dislikes, straightway he lays hold of it and attacks him with that weapon, and suggests what agrees with that man's inclination, and pours into the ears of his soul all manner of imaginations concerning that thing, that the man may not be able to hear the Eternal Word. If the man instantly turned his ears and mind away from the enemy, the assault would be easily repulsed, but as soon as he opens his ears so far as to dwell upon and dally with temptation, he is already well nigh conquered, and the strife is at the hardest. But as soon as thou hast bravely turned thy ear away, thou hast well nigh prevailed; for this enables thee to hear the inward voice of the Word, and takes away thy deafness. Not only worldly but also religious men are liable to this deafness, if they make the creature their idol and aim, and their hearts are possessed therewith. The Devil has marked this, and suggests to them the imaginations to which he finds them inclined. With some their ears are stopped up with their own inventions, and the daily routine of habit with which they go through certain outward acts, learnt by means of their senses from the creatures. All this dulls a man's hearing so that he cannot apprehend the Eternal Word speaking within him, nor in any wise understand what it says. It is true, however, that we ought to maintain the habit and practice of works of piety, though without a spirit of self-exaltation on account of them, such as prayer, or meditation, or the like, in order that our sluggish nature may be aroused into vigour, our minds raised on high, and our hearts allured and kindled. But there must be no claiming to ourselves thereof, but rather our ears must be left open to listen to the whispers of the Eternal Word. Let us not be as some obstinate men who never go forward, but to the day of their death remain standing on their outward customs, seeking for nothing further, and when God would say aught unto them, there is always something that gets into their ears, so that His Word cannot be heard. Children, at the last day, when all things come to be laid bare and open, it will be an everlasting sorrow to think of the endless variety of these things that have come between us and God, and how we have been entangled in mean bondage to our own ways and habits.
Now the Word is spoken into no man's ear, except he have the love of God; for Christ says: "If ye love me, hear my words." On this point says St. Gregory: "Wilt thou know whether thou love God? take note when cares, troubles, or sorrows overtake thee (from within or from without, whencesoever they come), and weigh down thy spirit so that thou knowest not which way to turn, nor what is to become of thee, and canst find no counsel and art outwardly in a storm of affliction, in unwonted perplexity and sore distress; if thou then remainest inwardly at peace and unmoved in the bottom of thy heart, so that thou dost not in any wise falter, either by complaint, or in word, or work, or gesture, then there is no doubt that thou lovest God." For where there is true love, a man is neither out of measure lifted up by prosperity, nor cast down by mishap; whether you give or take away from him, so long as he keeps his beloved, he has a spring of inward peace. Thus, even though thy outward man grieve, or weep downright, that may well be borne, if only thy inner man remain at peace, perfectly content with the will of God. But if thou dost not find it thus with thee, then thou art in truth deaf, and hast not really heard the voice of the Eternal Word within thee.
Further, thou mayest try by this test whether thou hast the right sort of love; namely, whether thou hast a lively thankfulness for the great benefits which God has bestowed upon thee and all His creatures in Heaven and on earth, and for His holy Incarnation, and for all the manifold gifts which are ever flowing out from Him to all men. And this thankfulness shall comprehend all men, even as it shall spring from love to all; whether they be clergy or laymen, monks, nuns, or in whatever condition of life they be, or whatever be their conduct, thou shalt cherish an honest, true love for them, not a concealed self-love, or self-seeking. This real, universal love is a source of measureless benefits. Know ye, children, that where men are true, glorified friends of God, their hearts melt with tenderness towards all mankind, living or dead; and if there were none such on the earth, the world were in an evil plight. Moreover, thou shalt let thy love shine forth before men, so far as in thee lies, imparting to them of thy substance, and giving them comfort, help, and counsel. It is true that thou must minister to thine own necessities; but when thou hast nothing to spare, thy love should be still lively, wishing that thou hadst aught to give, and ready to do to the utmost of thy power. These are the true signs of love and that a man is not spirtually deaf.
Now when our Lord comes and puts his finger into a man's ear and touches his tongue, how eloquent will he become! O children, of this wondrous things might be said! But we will now consider the seven gifts of the Spirit, given to man through this touch whereby the ears of his mind are opened. First is given unto him the spirit of fear, which has power to rid him of all self-will, and teaches him to flee from temptation, and at all times to shun unruly appetites and licence. Next is given to him the spirit of charity, which makes him sweet-tempered, kind-hearted, merciful, nor ready to pass a harsh judgment on any one's conduct, but full of tolerance. Thirdly, he receives the gift of knowledge, so that he understands the meaning of his inward experience, and thus learns to guide himself according to the blessed will of God. The fourth gift is Divine strength: through this gift such Divine might is imparted unto him, that, with Paul, it becomes a small and easy matter to him to do or bear all things through God who strengtheneth him. The fifth is the gift of good counsel, which all those who follow become gentle and loving. Lastly, come two great gifts, understanding and the wisdom of insight, which are so sublime and glorious, that it is better to seek to experience them than to speak thereof. That our ears may thus be opened of a truth, that the Eternal Word may be heard in us, may God grant us! Amen!