The 23rd Sunday of the Year

Is 35:4-7; Jas 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-37 (Year B)

“Say to all faint hearts, ‘Courage, do not be afraid. Look, your God is coming, he is coming to save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy.’”

The extravagance of the prophet Isaiah’s language struggled to express a joy that lay beyond words. His words had been addressed to the faint hearted, the population of Jerusalem whose faith had grown feeble through years of infidelity and corruption. Soon they were to experience the final indignity of violent occupation and forced exile. At a time when there was little cause for joy, the prophet refused to be silent. To the dying faith of a people who were about to lose everything, he insisted that the faint hearted cling to God’s promised salvation: “Do not be afraid. Your God is coming.”

These words speak to every individual, every generation, whose inner weariness has lost the reassurance of God’s presence. They speak to a darkness that can neither see nor express the joy of God’s presence. They promise gushing water to faith’s desert, streams to hope’s wasteland.

The Gospel reveals Jesus as the fulfilment of Isaiah’s promise. “They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech, and they asked him to lay his hands on him. Then, looking up to heaven he sighed, and he said to him, ‘Ephphata,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly.”

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection