Top of Page ILLUMINATING AND THINKING ABOUT THE SERMON
In our modern-day world things can get more and more complicated. We now live in a world that can cure many forms of deafness. However, some people choose to keep their children deaf. We live in a world that is rich in ways to communicate but we still find people who abuse and ignore the many ways we can communicate with one another. I wonder when Jesus cured deafness if he also helped the brain to suddenly understand the sounds. I like to think that was true. However, our modern-day miracle cure of the cochlear implant is not as good a cure. Some groups think this miracle does not help the deaf.
For a reflection on our readings, A Catechumen's Lectionary, edited by Robert M. Hamma, calls our attention to how difficult it is for people with normal hearing to communicate with a deaf person. How many of us deliberately avoid a person who cannot hear what we might say nor speak plainly in reply to us? Therefore, being a deaf person is often a very lonely experience. Following the example of Jesus, we can come to know compassion and patience by working with handicapped people." As Jesus cured the physically deaf, so he can also cure the spiritually deaf. Only after we hear the Spirit clearly in our lives can we proclaim the good news of Jesus clearly and emphatically." (Robert M. Hamma, Editor, A Catechumen's Lectionary [Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1988] p. 340).
Carol Stuhlmueller, C.P., suggests the following considerations on this Sunday's texts. A basic principle in the Bible is that all life comes from God as a free and undeserved gift. Unless we realize and appreciate our utterly dependent condition as creatures, we become, in fact, the "real" blind, deaf and lame, because we merely "pretend to see, hear and walk independent of God." To reach the fullness of life that God intends for us, we must become more and more "open" to God's grace. The paradox is that to be more "open" to receive God's gifts sometimes means that "our seeing must become blindness, our hearing deafness, and our speaking silence." (Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., Biblical Meditations for Ordinary Time Weeks 23-24 [Ramsey: Paulist Press, 1984] pp. 274-276). The paradox is that we can only overcome our spiritual handicaps by getting beyond our self-satisfied lives.
The whole debate about curing deafness with a cochlear implant can be applied to those of us with spiritual deafness. There are many ways to communicate spiritually with each of God’s children, but be prepared for the many barriers that we use to silence God in our lives.
In common with many Sunday readings from the Old Testament and the gospels, the texts for the 23rd Sunday are related as prophecy and fulfillment. In his commentary on Mark's gospel, George T. Montague, S.M., points out how "Jesus works a messianic sign which in a single act fulfills two of the signs foretold in Isaiah 35:5-6," namely, that the ears of the deaf would be opened, and the tongue of the dumb would sing. The word describing the speech impediment in the texts from Isaiah and Mark are the only two places in the Greek Bible where the word is found.
This particular story is unique to Mark's gospel but is similar to other healings in the other gospels where Jesus privately used physical touch. Commentators explore reasons why Jesus took the man apart from the crowd, but there is no definitive explanation. Perhaps our Lord wanted to treat him in a more personal way, spare the man embarrassment, get away from the crowd's distractions, avoid sensationalism as a wonder-worker, minimize his chances of being proclaimed a political messiah, or to subordinate his healing ministry to his central role as the suffering servant. (George T. Montague, S.M., Mark: Good News for Hard Times [Ann Arbor: Servant Publications, 1981] pp. 91-93).
Our Lord's actions to accomplish the cure not only heighten the drama and sense of the miraculous, but also indicate its "sacramental significance." Jesus showed a "sacramental style" by putting his fingers into the man's ears, touching his tongue with saliva, casting his eyes heavenward, sighing, and uttering the one-word command Ephphatha. In this, Jesus used visible signs as a way of showing invisible realities. In contrast with our antiseptic contemporary culture, people in Jesus' time believed that spittle had a curative quality and esteemed it as a means of healing. Scripture scholar D.E. Nineham observes that the crowd's request that Jesus lay his hands upon the man they brought to him was a common way of asking for a healing. "The gesture so frequently accompanied the act of healing," Nineham writes, "that it came to be used as a metaphor for it." (D.E. Nineham, The Pelican NT Commentaries: St. Mark [England: Penguin, 1971] pp. 202-204).
Alfred McBride emphasizes how the story indicates the compassion and sensitivity Jesus had toward the deaf man with a speech impediment. "He knew the man could not hear him and would normally communicate through signs." The handicapped man could feel Christ's fingers touch him, notice him look up to the heavens in prayer, and see his lips moving to utter Ephphatha. "In other words," McBride writes, "Jesus provided body talk for a man who might otherwise not know what Jesus was communicating." (Alfred McBride, O. Praem., To Love and Be Loved by Jesus: Meditation and Commentary on the Gospel of Mark [Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1992] p. 72).
Nineham sees in Mark's phrase, "his tongue was released," a reference to an interpretation that the man was "bound" by demonic powers. This understanding would certainly agree with Mark's theme that Jesus came as the Messiah to battle the forces of evil and free people from its control. It would also fit in with the prophecy-fulfillment theme of today's readings. Isaiah's glorious vision of the end-time becomes visible in the extraordinary works of Christ. The prophet's promises are now fulfilled in Christ. Recall the very first words spoken by Jesus in Mark: "This is the time of fulfillment. The reign of God is at hand!" (Mk 1:15) In Christ, the kingdom of God is already here but also yet to come.
Spiritual deafness and spiritual oppression are no longer something talked about on cable news. However, this morning let us pretend they are a relevant and burning question, which they certainly should be. What we can offer is freedom to people who are spiritually deaf and blind while at the same time offering freedom to those imprisoned by fear.
Top of Page ILLUSTRATING THE SERMON
J.M. is a three-year-old male with profound congenital sensorineural hearing loss secondary to a heterozygous connexin 26 mutation, originally detected after a failed newborn hearing screen. He has no significant comorbidities, nor any evidence of cognitive disability. His otherwise-healthy 8-month old brother carries the same mutation and has profound sensorineural hearing loss, also diagnosed shortly after birth. Their mother and her partner are not hearing impaired, but both have hearing impaired relatives and grew up with hearing impaired parents who communicated with them via sign language.
The parents, both of whom are sign language interpreters, have decided to raise their children with American Sign Language (ASL) as their only form of communication. They have chosen not to pursue cochlear implantation or hearing aids, and desire to assimilate their children into Deaf culture, with exclusive use of ASL for communication. Even though both parents are hearing, they are very much integrated with and identify with the Deaf community. Like many members of the Deaf community, they are philosophically opposed to cochlear implants. They feel that ASL is the appropriate choice of communication for deaf individuals. Since both parents are fluent in ASL, they felt that they could provide their children with an appropriate communication environment. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4493436/)
According to Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO at the National Association of the Deaf, the number of people receiving cochlear implants has been on the rise since it earned FDA approval back in the 1980s.
"This is primarily due to the philosophy of medical doctors that being deaf is a physical abnormality that should be cured," he wrote to INSIDER in an email. "Many doctors who perform cochlear implant surgeries have been aggressively promoting cochlear implants as a cure. Many parents who are struggling with the concept that their child is deaf often choose to proceed with cochlear implants on the basis of doctors' promotion of this technology as a cure."
Since at least 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents, the implant is an alluring option — it offers the promise of easier communication. When children are implanted at a young age, chances are good that they'll grow up and understand speech, with little to no need for visual aids.
But presenting the technology as a simple "cure" is misleading. Deaf people don't understand speech perfectly as soon as the device is activated. They must spend months or even years working with speech therapists, learning how to process this unfamiliar sensory input. They're trained to lipread, to pick up on vocal cues, and to speak.
"Many people don't realize that the surgery is only a small piece of the puzzle," a deaf father of an implanted deaf son told INSIDER. (He asked to remain anonymous to protect his privacy.) "Cochlear implant is a shock to the brain because it's never had to interpret these kinds of signals before. I'd imagine it's like trying to read the jumbled scrolling code in the Matrix for the first time. The process is very physically and mentally taxing — there is real fatigue due to working so hard to understand the sounds."
In short: It takes practice. But even practice may not be enough to make a cochlear implant truly work for its user.
Cochlear implants are still a divisive choice.
Share a cochlear implant activation video online and you're likely to see an all-out brawl unfold in the comments section. Deaf people assert that deaf kids don't need implants. Hearing people fire back, arguing that denying those kids cochlear implants is akin to child abuse.
Even within the deaf community, there's fierce debate.
Some see cochlear implants as a form of oppression from the hearing world and actively protest the technology. Some deaf people who get implants have even been shunned by the deaf community. (https://www.thisisinsider.com/why-deaf-people-turn-down-cochlear-implants-2016-12)
Some people suffer from a strange hearing disorder—they can hear sounds but can’t understand words. They have no trouble hearing a bird sing or a watch tick, but words are as unintelligible as if they were a foreign language. The source of the problem is not in the ears. It stems from an injury to the brain.
There is also a spiritual deafness that affects many people. Because of a sinful heart, those without faith in Christ can read the Bible and hear the teachings of God’s Word, but its spiritual message is foolishness to them (1 Corinthians 2:14).
That explains why some people can appreciate the Bible as literature, as reliable history, and as a source of high moral standards, but they fail to understand its spiritual message. They don’t grasp the significance of what it says about Christ—His death on the cross for our sins, His resurrection, and His ministry of intercession for us in heaven today. These truths make no sense to them.
As you read the Bible, do you “hear” what it says? If not, ask the Lord to open your understanding to what it says about Jesus. Put your trust in Him as your personal Savior and experience a spiritual birth. That’s the cure for spiritual deafness.
We cannot understand God's truth
Until we know the Lord;
It's when our heart is home to Him
We understand His Word. —Anon. (https://odb.org/2005/06/13/spiritual-deafness/)
While healing miracles are widely dismissed in European and North American circles, following Rudolf Bultmann's mighty efforts to demythologize such narratives, Christians in many lesser developed nations have a firm faith that such healings should be expected in our day. John Mbiti tells a parable about a superb African student who travels to Europe to attend seminary. While there, he takes courses in all the usual disciplines: history, Greek, Hebrew, theology, pastoral care, exegesis, homiletics, and much more. After completing his studies, the student returns home to Africa, where he finds that his sister is critically ill. The members of the village insist that he immediately do something to heal her, claiming that the problem is that she is being tormented by the spirit of a dead great-aunt. The student, though, richly saturated in Western culture is quite sure that the root of the problem is not spiritual, but medical, and that his sister needs the assistance of a physician, not a clergy person. A huge argument ensues in the village. The people shout, "Help your sister! She's possessed!" The student screams back, "But Bultmann has demythologized demon possession!" The people of the village are not impressed.
What obligation do we owe to foreigners? To what extent are they entitled to the same treatment that we would afford our fellow countrymen? Those are questions that are raised in this passage. Back when the nineteenth century was just beginning, Congress adopted, and President John Adams signed the Alien Act. That piece of legislation entitled the president to immediately deport any foreigner—from any country—if he deemed that the person posed a threat to the peace and safety of the United States. Such aliens were offered no legal recourse to stop or question the action, and the president was not required to explain or justify any deportations. Although that law was repealed a few years after it was enacted, history does have a way of repeating itself. The modern-day Patriot Act in some ways mirrors that legislation from two hundred years ago.
Our modern-day constant debate about immigration policy is not really about letting in Aliens. It is instead a political football or if you will a political hot potato that no one wants to solve. No one really believes that we should stop immigration, but we reduce the issue to one side shouting “let anyone and everyone in” to the other side shouting “build a wall”. We all know that neither group is right, we all know there is a good and workable middle ground. However, finding that middle ground is not politically comfortable for either side.
There are ways that people today are tending to be less open, particularly to concerns that may seem foreign to them. For a subscription fee, the Wall Street Journal offers an on-line version of its publication. To save the time of having to scroll through all the articles, though, you are able to tailor your subscription so that you only receive the kinds of news reports that are of interest to you. As a result, people can effectively blind themselves to the types of stories that they don't want to know about. In contrast, Jesus went out of his way to seek out those who have been forgotten and overlooked by the rest of the world.
The first part of today's lectionary reading is that troubling passage about the Syrophoenician woman. The passage presents an opportunity to explore that woman's persistence in the face of opposition. For many centuries the women in the Jiangyong province of China were forbidden to read or write. Yet they refused to accept that situation. As a result, they secretly developed a writing system that was known only to the women of that region. The language was known as Nu Shu, which means "female writing." The language used the basic Chinese characters, but the women altered them to give them new meanings and wrote them at a graceful slant. Today there are very few women who still can read and write Nu Shu. The Chinese government has pledged to allot funds to create a museum to preserve the script.
Some women, like that Syrophoenician, might be tempted to think that they are in a Catch-22 position. In the Orthodox tradition, Mount Athos is considered to be one of the most sacred spots on earth. The hill, located in Greece, is believed to be the spot where Mary found herself shipwrecked a few years after Jesus had ascended into heaven. Mary is said to have taken a particular interest in that location and said, "Let this land be forever mine—given to me by my son and God." Yet even though Mount Athos is said to belong to Mary, to this day the Orthodox Church steadfastly prohibits any woman from setting foot there. When Greece was admitted to the European Economic Community in 1984, they had to request a special exemption from one of the provisions of the group's constitution. Whereas the European Union is meant to guarantee freedom of movement for everyone within all of the member nations, Greece won an exception for Mount Athos.
When the mission field in Japan became open, one of the first dilemmas facing those church workers was what kind of clothes to wear. That might sound like a vain thing to worry about, especially considering Jesus' admonition on the Sermon on the Mount to not fret about such things. Yet the missionaries realized that if they wore cotton clothing, that would identify them with the lower classes of Japanese society, thus preventing them from being welcomed by the upper classes. In the end, they decided to wear clothing made out of silk, which helped them to win the acceptance of the social elite. The strategy turned out to be successful. By winning members of the Japanese elite to Christ, those Japanese then encouraged their subordinates to follow them in that faith decision. The result was that the mission field in Japan became more and more open.
By the middle of this century, it is estimated that only about one-fifth of the three billion Christians in the world will be non-Hispanic Whites. Both of the healings recorded in today's pericope point to how Jesus reached beyond the customary boundaries to include more and more people who once were considered to be "outsiders."
Churches in India are finding that the state of Gujarat is becoming much less open than it used to be. The legislative assembly there earlier this year enacted the so-called Freedom of Religious Conversion Bill, which provides for a three-year prison sentence and a fine of over $1,000 for anyone who tries to "force or lure" someone to convert to Christianity. Even if a person was not coerced into becoming a Christian, a one-year sentence and a fine could apply if the person had not received prior approval from the head of the district to become a Christian.
One group that is still waiting to have life fully opened to them are the so-called Untouchables of India. The Untouchables are the members of the lowest caste in Indian society. The caste system, which has endured for the past 1,500 years, basically asserts that all men are created unequal and therefore should be treated unequally. The origin of the caste system derives from a legend that says that the main groupings emerged from a primordial being. From the mouth of that being came the priests and teachers. From the arms came the government officials and soldiers. From the thighs came the merchants and traders. From the feet came the laborers. The final group, the Untouchables, are those whom the primordial being does not claim as its own. As a result of the caste system, Untouchables are forced to live lives where they are insulted, shunned, banned from temples, and made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places. Occasionally Untouchables are even raped, burned, and murdered. By their outward appearance, Untouchables do not look any different from their fellow countrymen. Yet because of their caste designation, they are forced to live an existence that is far different and far worse than the members of the other castes. Untouchables are forced to take the jobs that no one else will: cremating the dead, cleaning latrines, removing dead animals from the roads, and sweeping gutters. Technically the caste system has no official government sanction. But in practice the caste system is alive and active throughout Indian society. Today there are somewhere around 160 million Untouchables in India.
In the sermon he gave when he was enthroned as the archbishop of Canterbury earlier this year, Rowan Williams said, "No one can be written off; no group, no nation, no minority." He added: "We can't assume that any human face we see has no divine secret to disclose: those who are culturally or religiously strange to us; those who so often don't count in the world's terms—the old, the unborn, the disabled." The archbishop then went on to say: "We have to learn to be human alongside all sorts of others, the ones whose company we don't greatly like, the ones we didn't choose, because Jesus is drawing us together into his place, into his company."
Fred Rogers, who died earlier this year, was someone who had a definitive mission to be open and welcoming to others. Gloria Steinem described the star of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood as "the only human being on TV to whom you would entrust the future of the world." As a particularly poignant example of how he was able to cross all kinds of borders and express openness, there was an occasion when Mr. Rogers met Koko, the gorilla who had learned American Sign Language. As soon as Koko saw him, Koko hugged Mr. Rogers and then proceeded to take off Mister Roger's shoes for him.
After that Syrophoenician woman accepted the fact that she was initially nothing more than a dog in Jesus' eyes, Jesus responded to her, and her situation vastly improved. In Stockholm, Sweden, a woman took out an ad in a newspaper where she basically described herself in dog-like terms. Her advertisement declared: "I want a well-paid job. I have no imagination. I am anti-social, uncreative, and untalented." As a result of the newspaper notice, the 30-year-old woman was flooded with job offers.
The Australian state of Victoria is considering changing how it assigns death benefits to widows. The current law provides that widows be compensated according to how attractive they are. The logic is that women who are less beautiful should be given more money, since it's assumed they will be less likely to re-marry. In one recent case, a woman's death benefit payment was reduced by about $62,000 because the judge deemed her to be an especially beautiful woman. An appeals courts stepped in, however, and reversed that decision.
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." (Eleanor Roosevelt)
"If there truly is only one god and if that one god is the God of Israel, then everybody has Israel's God whether Israel likes it or not, and Israel as a result has to deal somehow with everybody." (Jack Miles, Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God [New York: Vintage, 2001], p. 204)
"The temperature of the spiritual life of the Church is the index of her power to heal." (Evelyn Frost)
"There is medicine in the Bible for every sin-sick soul, but every soul does not need the same medicine." (R. A. Torrey)
"Miracles are the great bell of the universe, which draws men to God's sermon." (John Foster)
Immediately before Mark tells the story of Jesus opening the ears of a deaf man, he tells the story of Jesus and the healing of the Syrophoenician woman's daughter. In mouthing the common practice of his people by saying that he should not give the gifts of God to a Gentile, then receiving her just rebuke of that attitude, Jesus models for his disciples a different kind of healing, of opening. Jesus' concept of healing and wholeness went beyond physical ills to the healing and reconciliation of peoples and societies.
Michael Christensen, one of the founding members of the Big Apple Circus, organized a group of clowns to go into the children's units of New York City hospitals. Their purpose is to help children deal with the fear of hospital stays and to provide humor. Four years after beginning the Clown Care Unit, Christensen left the circus to devote full time to working in the children's hospital units, because he felt called by "love and caring, God, a higher consciousness…."
Dressed as Dr. Stubbs, he visits the children to give them a "test" to see how long they can go without laughing. He sometimes gives them a red nose implant, by putting a rubber nose over theirs. He asks them to draw blood, and gives them a red crayon and paper. Only once has anyone complained, a staff member who said clowns don't belong in CCU. He answered, "Neither do children."
One teenager with renal failure who was angry over a family situation had isolated himself by refusing to talk and walk for over eight months. Another clown, Mark Mitton, "…taught him a mind-reading card game, and Carmelo began to open up." The boy loved the game and became skilled in it. When…"Mitton said Carmelo was a good enough actor to join CCU, except "we've got a problem because you can't walk." "Oh, I can walk!" Carmelo bragged."" Carmelo was hired and performed for CCU, and lived much longer than his condition would have normally permitted. (Linda Williams, Treating the Funny Bone [TIME, November 5, 1990], pp.17, 20, 22).
Mike Thomas was a quadriplegic after an automobile accident. Living in a wheelchair was not acceptable. Traditional hospital rehab resulted in only the ability to get in and out of his wheelchair. So Thomas started looking for alternatives. They began working with Ted Dardzinski, an athletic trainer. The first workout consisted of squeezing a pillow between Thomas's paralyzed legs, resulting in a muscle contraction. Dardzinski discovered that he could trigger muscle spasms, and over time, Thomas was able to control the spasms and turn them into controlled muscle movement. Three months after beginning treatment, Thomas stood at his daughter's graduation. Now he walks with a walking stick, and he returns to rehab just to give others hope.
This resulted in Project Walk, a clinic/gym that teaches people to train their nervous systems. The clinic now has 30 paraplegic and quadriplegics from around the country, and 15 trainers to work with them. One client, Tim Crane, whose doctors insisted that he would be brain damaged, now can sit up without help from someone else, and can move his toes. Another quadriplegic, VJ Berry is now able to walk inside the gym using forearm crutches.
The treatment does not work for everyone, Dardzinski says. A person has to be able to breath on his/her own, and the injury cannot be more than two years prior to coming to the clinic. Those who meet these qualifications and have the right attitude and the willingness to work very hard, are admitted to the Project Walk clinic. (R.J. Ignelzi, Never Say Never [The San Diego Union-Tribune, October 27, 2002], pp. E1, E4-5).
A little stream flows through our church campus. When the rains come and snows start to melt, the stream runs freely and full. But there is something about this stream unknown to many church members: upstream, there is a gate, which can be used to control the flow of water and divert it to irrigation or other purposes. So there are times when the rains have come, and the snows melt, and there is plenty of water, but little or none of it gets into our stream because the gate is closed. Even when huge resources are available to us, if we are closed to them, they may as well not exist.
When hitting a chip shot in golf with a pitching wedge, an open stance is preferred, because it helps to aim the ball in the right direction.
Only an open mind is ready to receive the unexpected treasure.
"Being open" is an important theme in the TV movie My Own Country." Based in fact, it is the story of Dr. Abraham Verghese, who came from his native India to Johnson City, to practice medicine. He specializes in infectious diseases, and it is 1985. Unlike others, he is open to the gay men and women who come to him for treatment. Once they see that he does not judge them, but listens to and cares about them, the number of patients almost overwhelms the hospital. Dr. Vergheses, unlike Jesus, cannot cure his patients, but he can enable them to face their debilitating illness and death with dignity. The hospital administrator and colleagues, not being as open in their views, are not too happy about such patients, and pressure mounts on Verghese to ease up. Greatest of all pressure is that from his unhappy wife, who misses friends and culture in India. She sees no value in his compassionate ministry, and ultimately forces him to choose between their marriage and his patients. The good doctor reluctantly agrees to return to India, but he leaves with the affection of a great many people, and the knowledge that his ministry of medicine made a difference in a lot of people's lives.
"Healing" is not exactly a major category in the Topical Index of the hymnals of the usual "mainline" denomination, but The Presbyterian Hymnal contains five only one of which has a slight reference to the historical Jesus' healings. One hymn is the ubiquitous Spiritual based on Jeremiah's anguished cry over his spiritually sick nation, "There Is a Balm in Gilead;" two are by that excellent modern hymn writer Fred Pratt Green, and are beautiful prayers in which the pray-er seeks both deliverance from the ailment, and, even more, deliverance from self-absorption that would weaken faith and prevent the person from accepting God's will. A fourth, by Bill Wallace, deals with Christ's anguished quote from Psalm 22, uttered on Golgotha, "Why Has God Forsaken Me?" This one is more a prayer of reassurance of Christ's love in the face of our own deaths than it is about healing from disease. That leaves Anglican Henry Alford's 1844 hymn "We Walk By Faith and Not By Sight." Present, rather than past-centered, the stanzas imply Christ's healing miracles, stating that we cannot hear his "gracious words" or "touch his hands and side," but "by faith, and not by sight" "we believe him near." All these hymns are helpful for those suffering and who read about Christ healing so many people in his day. Each suggests that there is something greater than physical healing, as fervently as we might wish it and that is a close relationship of faith and love that brings a sense of wholeness and peace, regardless of our present condition.
Top of Page prayers (WorshipAid)
Leader: Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!
People: We will praise the Lord as long as we live;
Leader: The Lord sets the prisoners free;
People: The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
All: The Lord will reign forever. Praise the Lord!
We confess, O God, that all too often our thoughts, words or deeds do not praise You. Unlike You, we are quick to vent our anger; we cling to our hurts, and are slow to forgive. We put our trust in our earthly rulers and ourselves, not in You and Your word. We are not open, but closed, to the new things You would do in our lives and in the lives of others. Forgive and renew us by the power of Your Spirit that we might become more like Your Son, who lived and died for us, and who now reigns with You in heaven until coming again to judge the living and the dead. Amen.
Once again, we place these plates full of our offerings before You, O God, and admit that we bring very little before You, except ourselves, our hearts, minds and wills. Use all that we have both the things we see the things we do no see to help Your work on earth. Amen.
Gracious and loving God, we thank You today that You have called each of us out of our homes to gather in this holy place to worship You. May Your Spirit continue to reign within our hearts that we might be open to one another at all times. We thank You for brothers and sisters in Christ, who are our companions, our "sharers of the loaf" during our spiritual quests. With the emphasis upon individualism and self reliance all around us, makes it difficult for us to share our inner lives, help us to find those with whom we can relax and be ourselves, no longer having to wear the mask that nothing ever bothers us.
We are one in Christ, and yet we bring different gifts and concerns, and our needs and spiritual conditions are diverse. Some of us are rejoicing over something good that has happened recently, while others are grieving over a loss or disappointment. Some of us feel a sense of accomplishment, and others of us feel that we have failed again. We are men and women; children and adults; Young and old; beginning careers, midway, or about to retire, and some of us are unemployed. Some of us are well off, others barely making ends meet; single and alone, married and surrounded by family; in good health, and failing health. Help us, O God, to be aware of and open to the richness of our diversity, and of our common need for You and the love of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen