23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (NAB Translation)
Welcome to the Sunday Says podcast for September 6, 2015, the twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time. Thank you for joining us as we break open the Word of God to prepare our hearts and minds for this Sunday’s Mass. This week Jesus speaks a word in His native Aramaic language, i.e. the word “Ephphatha,” which means “Be opened.” In so doing He performs a miracle of physical healing that symbolizes an even greater spiritual healing that is open to all of us and opens us to all of Him. So let’s delve into the readings. As always we are using the Jerusalem translation for copyright purpose.
In this passage from the book of Isaiah, God delivers a message of hope for a future Jerusalem where He will liberate his people from much of the misery that came into the world through sin. God will do this through the future Messiah, Jesus the Christ, who proves His identity as the Messiah by performing the miracles spoken of in this passage. The prophet states, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed,” two signs that are fulfilled in our Gospel reading. Above all this is a message of joy where the prophet says “Don’t be afraid…Look, your God is coming…he is coming to save you.” God himself does indeed come to save us — in person–through the incarnation of Jesus. He not only heals physical blindness and deafness, but more importantly, spiritual blindness and deafness as well. The final glory brought by God will be like water gushing from the desert.
The responsorial Psalm is Psalm 146, one of the last four Psalms in the Psalter. Psalms are called tehillim in the Jewish tradition, which translates as “Praises.” The response appropriately is: Praise the Lord, My Soul.
In our second reading from the book of James, Christians are called to avoid making distinctions between classes of people. Perhaps James had in mind a particular incident or circumstance in which wealthier Christians had disrespected the poorer Christians. In any case, James’ message is consistent with many Old Testament passages warning that God Himself is impartial and accepts no bribes, therefore we too must not allow unjust discrimination. God is not only impartial, but has created every person in His own image, therefore every person should be treated with equal dignity and respect. Throughout the Bible we see time and again that God has a special concern for the poor. God’s concerns should be our concerns as well.
In our Gospel reading from St. Mark, we see Jesus coming into an area called the Decapolis that was predominantly influenced and populated by Gentiles, especially Greeks. Not long before this, Jesus has experienced rejection from his own people, so he now goes out to the despised and ignored who are by contrast eager to hear him. It is here that Jesus performs a great physical healing on a man suffering deafness and a speech impediment. Throughout the Bible, we see that deafness symbolizes those who do not listen to or do not hear God’s message. In this healing miracle, you will notice that Jesus uses his fingers and saliva – two very physical things. The term “finger of God” in the Bible is often used to describe the action of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus uses the term “Ephphatha,” meaning “Be opened,” he heals in a sequence: first the man hears and then he can speak. This sequence is meant to apply to us in a spiritual sense. In a homily given by Pope Benedict XVI he says, “…this little word, “Ephphatha – Be opened,” sums up Christ’s entire mission. He became man so that man, made inwardly deaf and dumb by sin, would become able to hear the voice of God, the voice of love speaking to his heart, and learn to speak in the language of love, to communicate with God and with others.” The question for us is whether we too will allow Jesus to perform this miracle in us by opening not only our ears but our hearts as well to first hear what God is telling us, and then to open our tongues to communicate his love and His glory.
Please consider using the following meditation for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Sept. 6):
- The Scriptures today speak clearly of God’s mercy extended to those who face physical, emotional or spiritual challenges. Are we willing to trust ourselves to God’s mercy and care? Are we instruments of God’s mercy and assistants to all in need?
Solitude (Entertainment for the Braindead)/CC BY-NC-SA-3.0
Sunset (Evgeny Grinko)/ CC BY-NC-ND-Germany
From Truth (Dexter Britain)/CC BY-NC-SA-3.0