The Twenty-third Sunday of the Year Isaiah 35:4-7; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37 (year b)
“Say to all faint hearts, ‘Courage! Do not be afraid. Look, your God is coming.” Throughout the ages sinful humanity has struggled to discern the signs of God’s presence.
Without God we sink into a confusion that longs for healing, for assurance and direction. When we look into ourselves we shall discover that, beneath a confident exterior, we share the same insecurity that was addressed long ago by the prophet Isaiah. We long for the assurance that God is with us, that his presence is our courage.
The assurance given by the prophet Isaiah was repeated over and over again. In the presence of the promised Messiah the eyes of the blind would be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed. The lame would leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb would sing for joy.
The beauty of this promised salvation cannot be confined to the purely physical. The consequences of sin are felt most keenly in what cannot be seen, in the inner self that drives our every thought and action. We are blind when the inner eye cannot see that we are loved by God and enabled by him to love in return. We are blind when we can find no hope for ourselves or our world. We are crippled when we cannot walk in God’s ways and delight in his commands. We are dumb when we know nothing of a joy that longs to sing his praise. This understanding
illuminates the healings worked by Jesus throughout his ministry. In today’s Gospel Jesus laid his hands on a man both deaf and dumb. The words he spoke were simple: “‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened’. And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly.”
The reaction of those who witnessed this healing was immediate, an acknowledgment that in Jesus, God was healing a broken world. Instinctively faith discerned that Jesus was opening the eyes and ears of mind and heart, and that in him crippled hopes would again dance with joy.
These repeated healings call for prayerful reflection on our part. Do we truly see as God sees, listen to each other as God listens to us, walk with each other as God walks with us?
The challenge of St James in today’s reading confronts, in a very practical way, our perceptions of ourselves. He urges us to make no distinction between classes of people, to make no distinction between the rich and the poor. How does this affect our reaction to the current refugee crisis? Do we hide from the plight of those brought to our borders by unimaginable desperation? Or do we, in the words of St James, say: “Stand over there”?
Lord, open our eyes and hearts.
This article first appeared in the latest edition of the Catholic Herald magazine (02/9/15).
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