While growing up, I had an uncle named Ignatius Buuka, who was blind. He lived with us at home. He was a jolly, hardworking man whom we loved, and whose company we enjoyed a lot. He passed on in the late 1990s.
Unlike blind people, people with speech and hearing special needs carry with them a little bit of an embarrassment about themselves. They are sometimes self-conscious about themselves. They can observe people talking but cannot easily tell what they are talking about unless they have been trained to read lips. They can see someone gesturing some message, but sometimes they cannot tell exactly what they mean. It can be frustrating and embarrassing to them.
In our gospel today, we read about Jesus being asked to heal a man who had a speech and hearing challenge. Jesus was aware of the frustration and the embarrassment that people with special needs sometimes experience. So instead of healing the man in front of the crowd, he took him off by himself away from the crowd. Relocating the man away from the crowd is loaded with a lot of meaning, but there are two small lessons we can ponder on for the rest of the day.
The very first small lesson is that the gesture dramatizes the tender considerateness of Jesus. Here was a man for whom life was already difficult. Jesus shows the most tender consideration for his feelings. He treated him as an individual, with a face, with feelings, with dignity. Jesus avoided any form of callousness, disrespect, or disregard of who he was as an individual. There is a small lesson in there for us on how we need to treat our brothers and sisters with special needs. They are individuals with a name, with a face, with feelings, and with dignity. Our relationship and treatment of them needs to be modeled after that of Jesus.
The second small lesson is hidden in the gesture of relocating the man. Sometimes a geographical relocation is necessary for a big change to happen in your life. For instance, someone who has been struggling with alcoholism, when you get on the road to recovery there are some places that you used to go to, or some gatherings that you used to attend that you just must keep away from.
For someone recovering from drug addiction, there are some people or some houses that you used to visit that you have to avoid or else you will have a relapse, and never manage to stay the path of recovery. A geographical relocation is sometimes necessary for God to act in your life.
In our Mass we pray for our brothers and sisters with special needs. In our families and in our communities, may they be treated with respect, with dignity. May each one of us here present learn to relate and to care for them in a way modeled after that of Jesus.
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