By: By Barbara Roedel
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 6
Isaiah 35:4-7a; Psalm 146:7,8-9,9-10; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37
IN OUR FIRST reading today we hear the prophet Isaiah proclaiming restoration to the Israelites at the end of the exile. He promises God will vindicate and save them at which time the blind will see, ears will be cleared, and the mute will sing. This prophecy is fulfilled in today’s Gospel.
People in the community brought a deaf man with a speech impediment to Jesus for healing. Jesus, touching the man and praying for him, restored the man to health. And the community went wild — telling everyone what Jesus had done. Can you imagine the joy of watching your neighbor be restored to health and able to enter into conversations, no longer isolated from everyday communication?
The miracle is one level of the story, but the hidden meaning, the conversion of his heart that allowed the physical healing, leads the deaf man to salvation. Jesus is not simply a miracle worker but the Savior of the world. By opening the deaf man’s ears, the man opens his heart to hearing Jesus’ message.
ARE WE HARD of hearing and slow in speech? Have our ears really heard God’s word and our tongues confessed our faith?
We are called to the same healing the man in today’s Gospel received. Just as Jesus’ touch healed the deaf man, Jesus has also touched us in baptism, the Eucharist, in Scripture, in reconciling with one another, in loving relationships, and in urging us to seek peace in our hearts and our world. Have we listened, allowing our hearts to be converted?
When have we, as individuals and as a community, turned a deaf ear and refused to speak in the face of injustice? When have we failed to listen to the voices of those who suffer from poverty and racism? Have we merely isolated disturbing voices from the community so we no longer have to hear them at all?
JESUS ALSO tells us “Ephphatha. Be opened.” Be opened to seeing and responding to the people around you who need to be touched by God’s love. Be opened to people of different religions, cultures and races. Be opened to listening to the pain of someone who has suffered from violence. Be opened to the presence of God in the poor and marginalized. Be opened by living ordinary life faithfully by encouraging someone who is struggling with addictions, mentoring a child, showing appreciation to a co-worker, and sharing your faith with someone who is searching for meaning in their life. Be opened to a conversion of your heart when God’s healing grace touches your life.
Jesus uses us to spread the word in our actions and speech so as to make his love known. When we receive God’s grace and share our faith with others, only then will we have authentically heard the preaching and teaching of Jesus today. Then Isaiah’s prophecy of God’s promise of abundant life for both the earth and people will be fulfilled.
Barbara Roedel is the pastoral associate at St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island.