My 95 year old granny hates to wear her false teeth. She hates the way they feel – they just don’t feel the same as real teeth – so it wasn’t surprising that she almost forgot to put them in this morning before we left for mass. She especially doesn’t like wearing them to mass because apparently they dry out her mouth and the Holy Eucharist gets stuck to the dentures. She admitted on the car ride to church that she feels badly because it’s difficult for her to get the Eucharist “unstuck”. I tried to tell her, in the most reassuring tones, that it was probably fine, that she should just do the best she could do and that God very likely understands what aging is all about. “At least I hope he understands,” I thought to myself.
Our denture conversation came to mind as the gospel was read. Fittingly, it was the story of the healing of the deaf man who had a speech impediment. Christ pulls the man aside, out of the crowd a little, puts a finger into his ear and actually puts spit in his mouth – and at once the man’s ears are opened and the impediment healed. Honestly, my first reaction to hearing this gospel was, “ICK!!!” How unsanitary, unhygienic and just plain gross! How deeply would I have to believe that Jesus was a healer for me to allow him to spit in my mouth?
But as I pondered it a little more, what a testament to the power of God in the most unlikely – and unsavory – of circumstances! God uses matter, the world he created, to be the conduit for his grace and healing power to flow through. The weakness of our flesh supplies the foundation for his strength. How absurdly astonishing! And at the same time, how refreshing and freeing. My granny (and me too, if I get to be as old as she) – we can approach the throne of God just as we are, with every wart, stain and mouth full of dry dentures. Just like the man in the gospel, God will heal us. All we have to do is come.
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