September 9: Kindness is a Language! (23 B)

“Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God…he comes to save you!” Isaiah 35:4-7a

A few days ago, I came across this beautiful quotation: “Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Some claim this quote comes from Mark Twain,  however, literary scholars think otherwise. It may have its origins in a 19th-century “commonplace book” or what we would call today a “self-help book.” The sentiment is correct, namely that kindness is the very first step in the healing process.

In Mark’s gospel, Jesus is traveling in the district of Tyre and spreading his ministry to new people; in fact, some of these souls may be Gentiles. These non-Jews listened not only to Jesus’s words of encouragement but also were witnesses of his healing power.

So we have the story of the deaf man whose ears were opened. Again, kindness is a language that the deaf can hear.

On Labor Day, I watched with interest the award ceremony of the American Film Institute, honoring actor George Clooney, for his “lifetime achievement” in the film and television industry.

In his acceptance speech, Clooney had to admit that he is young for such an award, but these days AFI, for a variety of reasons, maybe running out of bankable Hollywood stars.

Cooney’s breakthrough role was that of Dr. Doug Ross on the TV drama ER in which the actor played an emergency room physician or hospitalist. Week after week, he and his fellow actors saved the lives of all sorts of people.

Today we use the term “hospitalist,” meaning a medical doctor assigned to patients whose health issues require immediate attention, diagnosis, and care. The word “hospitalist” comes from the Latin root word that we find in hospitality or hospice, a place of caring, and even healing.

Reading today’s gospel, think of Jesus as a hospitalist and one who can look into people’s lives and the illness and challenging issues that affect souls in need of healing.

So much so, those who watched Jesus from the shores of the Sea of Galilee and in the district of Decapolis were astonished and said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear, and the mute speak.”

Here’s a digression. In George Clooney’s AFI acceptance speech, he recounted an amusing story of how the cast would take lunch breaks at a local diner nearby the Warner Brothers studio and often still dressed in their medical scrubs or costumes.

One day, as the cast members were having lunch, a family with children sat near them. Suddenly one of the kids was in danger and had stuffed several French fries into his mouth, to the point where the child was choking.

In a panic, the parents reached out to the cast for help. Of course, these phony nurses and doctors had to telephone 911 because it was a real emergency, not a TV drama.

Good reminder, actors may look and sound like nurses and doctors, but they are not the ones who perform medical miracles.

In his short acceptance speech, Clooney credited his father and mother for his own moral and ethical upbringing. He went on to make an important point.

It’s not what you are or what you do or what you have achieved; instead, it’s who you are — and your values, and your efforts on behalf of others that define your character.

You may know that Clooney has brought issues of poverty and genocide in Sudan to worldwide attention. With his wife, Amal has supported United Nations efforts such as UNICEF and relief for global problems such as the Syrian refugee crisis.

Pope Francis named Clooney, an ambassador to one of the pope’s pet projects “Scholas Occurrentes.” This is an arts program for youth begun by the pope when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires.

So we return to themes reflected in Saint James’s letter, namely a code of conduct for the followers of Christ.

James makes mention — we are not to judge people by the wearing of gold rings and beautiful clothes; instead, God shows no partiality. And moreover, those who are poor in the world may be rich in faith and heirs to a promised kingdom of heaven.

Again, kindness is a language that the deaf can hear, and the blind can see.

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA


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