The host would like you to unmute
A reflection for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
by Katie Zou
In early August, I had my first in-person meeting with our Summer Bible Camp leaders. We had filmed a couple skits in our parish parking lot that day and decided to order dinner and have our final meeting face to face under the evening sun rather than on Zoom. It was surreal. One of the best moments? When we had our closing prayer, we ended with the Our Father, and I heard something I never thought I knew I missed hearing: everyone saying the Lord’s Prayer together, and hearing us say it at the same time. On Zoom, you cannot pray together unmuted: you’ll only hear a cacophony of noise. I had led prayer so many times on Zoom and just got used to the silence. That evening, it was as if we came to life again. I was not the only one who noticed that difference.
It’s amazing what being in-person does to the human being: you want to talk and see each other’s faces. It’s strange how meeting online suddenly made us self-conscious or made it normative to not show our faces. That same week, I had my Confirmation kids come in on a Saturday morning to do Confession, and to my embarrassment (and somewhat righteous frustration), I didn’t recognize the kids who came in and expected me to know their names as I took attendance: I had never seen their faces until that morning — all the times when we had class on Zoom, they had their cameras off. I don’t think these kids realize how much I — and perhaps their peers who would try to speak or turn their camera on — want to know there’s somebody else in the room, to know what face owns that disembodied name.
I imagine that is how God feels about us, too. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus heals a man who was deaf-mute. Jesus performed many healing miracles, but I think it is a huge oversight if we only see Jesus as being compassionate to the sick. It’s nice that He heals — but Jesus wants to be more than just nice. He wants to give us glory. Being deaf-mute means more to Jesus than having a disability — it’s a spiritual handicap as well: when you are deaf, you also cannot hear the Word of God; when you are mute, you cannot praise the Lord. This deaf-mute man had never in his life known the love of God proclaimed during the Sabbath, never known the salvation story or heard the praises of the psalms or the joy of the congregation on feast days. This man had never know what it means to burst out in song, speak with words that flow off the heart and tongue from knowing he has a merciful Lord keeping watch over him. For anyone who has ever recalled that one moment you realized Jesus is a real Person and wants to have a relationship with you, you know that kind of joy — you know you want to proclaim it from the rooftops. You want everyone else to get it. You want people to see and also be unmuted.
There are things other than physical disability that make us deaf, blind, and mute. The prophet Isaiah in the first reading says, “Be strong, do not fear!” Fear can block us from really seeing God. Fear is what Adam felt when he fell from grace, and what led him to hide and “turn off his camera” and “mute” himself, so to speak. Fear is a weakness — it makes us feeble. How many do you know who are reluctant to pray, go to Mass, dive deeper into their spirituality because they fear finding words of judgment, the way too hard, too unkind, too rigid? What kind of a God do they believe in, then?
Then there’s something worse: those who are deaf and mute by choice. In a proverbial Zoom call with Jesus, these are the ones who don’t want to be there and are probably listening and watching something else while the Lord waits on the other end. These are the ones who close their ears because Jesus calling their name makes them uncomfortable, or chose to remain silent so as not to appear “super-Catholic”. And some others are deaf-mute because they are indifferent. Neither joyful news nor exhortation can compel them to listen or speak. Compare this to Mary who broke out in song, praise, and thanksgiving when she was filled with the Spirit at her cousin Elizabeth's house!
Love seeks to communicate itself: a love that remains hidden and silent is a love that will not last. The Host is asking you to unmute. “Adam! Where are you?” Jesus says, “Be opened!” Just as a father is delighted when his child seeks his face, so is our Lord when we seek Him face-to-face and proclaim His goodness so that others may join in, too.
The readings for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, are
Katie Zou is the Youth Minister at St. Agnes Tsao Catholic Church in Markham. She graduated with a Masters of Arts in Catechetics and Evangelization from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Her greatest desire in ministry is to see young people choose sainthood. When she's not prepping, teaching, or leading formation, she likes to read, write, and enjoy time with her siblings.