Twenty Third Sunday September 6, 2009

Isaiah 35:4-7; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37

The readings of today give us new hope that something new is going to take place. Prophet Isaiah says that the blind will receive the sight, the deaf will hear and the lame will walk. For the deaf man in the Gospel, it was almost certainly an ordinary day.  He may not have known who Jesus was or that he was in that area.  He did not seek healing or change.  Like most of us he was very comfortable with his existing situation. He did  not expect to be touched by Jesus or  have his life completely changed.  Yet God came to him, much as God comes to us in the very ordinariness of life.  He was given the ability to hear the words of Jesus for himself and respond.  He did not seek Jesus but Jesus sought him out and touched him because of a few of his friends. In the second reading Apostle James reminds us that we do not always find God where we expect.  Frequently God is not in those people or circumstances we find so fine and attractive and not necessarily where we think God should be.  God comes to us in the common and  the ordinary events. We need to open our eyes and listen attentively to find him. That is why the India Poet Tagore says, leave this chanting and telling of beads and find God where the tiller ploughs the field or the stone cutter cuts the stone. God is found only if we look for him with sincere heart.

The First Reading from the Book of Isaiah is a consolation passage. The prophet gives the good news by saying, “Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.'” In the Old Testament the Israelites continuously lived in fear of the Lord. They had the reason to fear Him for they all knew how their ancestors had endured the wrath of God when they had hardened their hearts and disobeyed His Commandments. At the same time, they were aware of the kindness and the mercy of God. Now the prophet tells them that the Lord is coming to save them. They are called upon to be strong an live without any fear. The purpose of his coming is to establish the kingdom of God. His vengeance of the Lord was not against the people, but against spiritual forces, against Satan and all evil tendencies that are seemingly subtle. Prophet  Isaiah gives people a sign of the arrival of the messiah.  He says:  “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped: then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.”  There will be a total transformation and the new kingdom will be a kingdom of Joy. This is why the New Testament emphasizes so much that Jesus healed the blind in fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. This particular sign was expected of the Messiah. It was like a Divine Trademark to re-establish his kingdom.

It is quite surprising that the words, “The blind shall see” are used both in the old and the new testaments. This statement has two meanings. In the first sense, its meaning was literal and worldly, the blind being able to see. In the second sense, it was a reference to the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the spiritual heart that is received through our new creation during the Sacrament of Baptism. It is the spirit that gives the inner light makes spiritual things visible in the context of faith.  Through the grace of God, the spiritual heart has the faculty to perceive what is spiritual and can perceive God’s mysteries.

Four of the words that Isaiah uses are symbolic of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, namely, waters, streams, pool and springs. This becomes meaningful of the working of the Holy Spirit in Christian life. Thus having received our new creations, we are called to act as spiritual beings, to be holy as the heavenly angels are holy. As St. James teaches us through the Second Reading, we are not to show favouritism to anyone. We are not to judge with evil thoughts by elevating a person in fine clothes over and above a poor person in dirty clothes.  God does not show favouritism to anyone. The external show and presentation is not sufficient but the internal disposition and sincerity of heart is essential in the true Christian life.  To him every one is equal. For “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” That is why God has chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him. 

Today’s Gospel Reading is a confirmation of the many prophecies that are found in the Old Testament, where Jesus miraculously healed the man who was deaf and who had an impediment in his speech. The Gospel section begins with the healing of a deaf man and ends with the elaborate praise of Jesus. These are not just miracle stories about Jesus’ power but have a teaching purpose.  Jesus was basically a Gentile, a non-Jewish area.  There a man is brought for Jesus to heal. He was deaf, that is, he could not hear and he had an impediment in his speech, that is, he could not speak properly. It does not say he was like that from birth.  In his process of healing Jesus uses certain actions which is not a normal part of his healing, which is almost like a ritual. Jesus puts his fingers in the man’s ear and puts spittle or saliva that is said to have medical power, on his tongue. At the same time Jesus looked heavenward – to his Father – and said, in Aramaic, “Be opened”. Immediately the man was healed: he could hear and speak perfectly. The people around were astounded and they praise God. They cry out and say that He has done all things well; he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak, the words we heard from Prophet Isaiah.

The way Jesus heals the man reminds us of the Sacrament of Baptism. Through the gift of faith which precedes adult Baptism, our ears are opened to hear the Word of God and our tongues are loosened to speak about Christ to others. Not only has Jesus physically healed the man, but through His Blood, He has renewed mankind. He has created a new world, the Kingdom of God, through the Sacrament of Baptism. By the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, we are new creations, a holy nation, a holy priesthood, holy children of God. The gift of our new heart is the proof of such. For while we can perceive spiritual things with our new heart through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, those who are not of God, they cannot perceive what we perceive.  Baptism is a sign of our full incorporation into the Body of Christ, his Church. It involves a total commitment on our part to the way of life that Jesus calls us to follow.

In the Gospel, really to hear the Word of God is to carry it out. “Hearing” implies: listening, understanding, making the message one’s own and living it out in word and action.  Although Jesus tried to restrain the man in today’s Gospel, the cured man and all those around proclaimed what had happened everywhere they went. Really the man just had to do it. After all, he was now hearing and he was now able to share with others what he had heard and experienced. If we were really excited about the Good News of Jesus Christ, if we were really excited about the experience of having the Christian vision of life, we would have to do exactly the same.

So, let us pray today for the gift of hearing, to hear the voice of God calling to us in everything that will happen this day. Let us pray for the gift of speech, that is, to be so filled with the liberating experience of knowing Jesus that we simply cannot refrain from sharing that experience with all those around us. At the same time let us reflect on what Jesus has done for us. Let us reflect on the words of the crowd when they said, “He has done everything well.” And may the grace of God always be with us so we will never forget the abundance of treasures that we have received through Jesus Christ and the power of His Spirit.”

ONE fine morning I heard a sweet voice outside my home. Out of curiosity, I peeped through the window and saw a small bird singing joyfully. Its beak was pointed up into the clear sky as if to thank and praise the Lord for the sunny new day. With grateful hearts, we also give thanks – to those who help us financially in our dire need, to friends who stand by our side in hard times, to those who comfort our sorrowful hearts in times of loss. But how often do we thank and praise God for all the benefits and blessings poured on us every day? The apostle Paul exhorted the Thessalonians: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”. Like the birds who praise God simply for a new day, we too can voice our praise every day.

One Response to “Twenty Third Sunday September 6, 2009”

  1. Fr. Bernie Says:

    You inspire and help me to personalize the powerful Word. May suggest you to share some illustrations and try to address the serious problems of the global communities.

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