10 February 2006

Be opened! And be quiet about it!

5th Week OT(Fri): 1 Kings 11.29-32; Mark 7.31-37
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, University of Dallas
NB. My thanks to my Dominican brother, Fr. J.D. Logan, OP, for pointing out to me my gospel confusion. I conflated two miracle accounts: the healing of the man born blind and the healing of the man born deaf and unable to speak. The text has been corrected.

What is Jesus doing? Running around the countryside healing disease, throwing demons out of the possessed, teaching crazy stuff to crowds of hungry folks, running for the hills when those same crowds press him too closely or threaten his peace. He is booed and hissed in his own hometown. He walks on water. He declares all foods clean. He produces a feast for more than five thousand by blessing what little they had to eat. And now, today, he takes off by himself a man unable to speak, unable to hear and frees him from his silence. What is Jesus doing?

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in their document on divine revelation, Dei verbum, definitively teach that: “To see Jesus is to see the Father.” This is what Jesus is doing: he is being God. And because he is God he has “perfected revelation by fulfilling [revelation] through his whole work of making himself present and manifesting Himself: through His word and deeds, His signs and wonders […]”(DV 4). So, if Jesus is God (and he is) and if he has perfected the revelation of his Father to us (and he has), then why does he tell the man he has just healed to be quiet about the miracle? Why not charge him with the task of the apostles: go out shouting the good news, go out yelling about the advent of the Messiah!

Jesus is not trying to keep the Good News a secret. If he were, he would heal no one. He would have no disciples to teach privately and charge with evangelization. Nor is he trying to establish a mega-church following. He wouldn’t bother seeking out the solitude of the deserted places and the slow, calming distance of the sea, if he were. He would be front and center. He would be the hub of doubt-killing miracles around which the sick, the possessed, and the lost would spin. Instead, he says, “Be quiet about this miracle. Tell no one you have been made new.” The miracle reveals the gospel. Silence reveals the way that gospel is heard.

Jesus is not preaching a gospel of showmanship antics or celebrity stunts. He is not gathering together the multitudes to wow them with gimmicky, magical tricks. He is revealing the Father, perfecting God’s Self-communication to us, for us. And for us that revelation can be the measured flowering of recognition or the breath-stealing thunderclap of immediate awareness. It can settle into us over time. Or lay waste to every obstacle to trust instantaneously. We each hear silence with our own ears.

Magical showmanship might titillate our fleeting curiosity, but what can be revealed to us in a rush of apparent tricks (even if they aren’t tricks!)? That this man Jesus has divine power? Sure. But does that instill faith and trust or does it instill envy, ambition, or perhaps even ridicule. Likewise, the failure to demonstrate a divine connection, the failure to reveal through the miraculous something of the authority of the Father, that would leave those hungry for spiritual food hungrier and more dis-eased than before. Perhaps the claim of divine authority is best assented to when it can be miraculously demonstrated?

What is Jesus doing? He is being God. The miraculous healing of the man born unable to hear or speak reveals the gospel. The silence Jesus wants reveals the way that gospel is heard and attended to and spread: “He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.”

This isn’t disobedience. It is true obedience. Hearing, listening, and complying: “Be opened!”


  1. I'm glad fr. Lew gave your blog a plug...in our defense we did.. didn't we?

    Please, would you do me a favor and email me at vocations.summit@op.org when you have a moment?

    Thanks for the great homilies, too!


  2. Conflated or not, this is truly good and great stuff and I feel God's pleasure in reading it the way you must feel it in proclaiming it.

    Pax et bonum Dei,


  3. Indeed you did, sister! I get several hits a day from your site

    My thanks! Fr. Philip