Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’
“Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God.” This is the faith which this Sunday’s Word of God will referring to. Fr Martin Cilia has a whole section about the faith of our Founder. In his book “Found Among Sinners” he writes about “Faith as a gift” (pp. 87-90):
May the Lord, through his spirit, enable you to grow firm in strength with regards to your inner self, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, to all God’s holy people.
De Piro was convinced that, like all human relationships, there is a particular paradox about prayer. It is a gift from God but at the same time it depends on one’s openness to it, “if the need to pray is deep, it is as much difficult to know how to pray well. By himself man would have never succeeded in finding the way to pray.” He knew by experience that he had to relax into the reality of being loved by God and at the same time he struggled to let go of his own defences in an act of self-surrender. He developed a very simple child-like attitude but it took him a life long journey to achieve it.
De Piro was very much in touch with his own weakness, and that he shared in the weakness of all humanity. Humans by nature are weak, they are slaves of evil, so they need to unite themselves to God. Weakness for De Piro was not only moral but also physical to the bishop he writes, “as you know, last year I was hit by a breakdown, that has weakened me, I lost energy and strength to keep up with my activities.” Such weakness was never a source of discouragement but, to the contrary, it drew him more and more to root his strength in God:
Lord see to it that my heart be similar to yours, so that the saying ‘the priest is another Christ’ ever assimilated in me’. My heart is poor, but you enrich it with your heavenly gifts; my heat is weak, but you give it life with you love; my heart is restless but you strengthen it with your blessings, my heart is blind, but you shine with your divine light.
Basic to De Piro’s prayer life was to learn to be in tune with the voice that was calling him in his story and to “judge everything with the eyes of faith.” In order to develop such attitude one needed to be near the Lord, “as water is necessary for the tree so is prayer for the soul that believes, as long as we go on praying we get stronger in virtue and in the grace of God.”