23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Homily

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Isaiah 35:4-7a
Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10a
James 2:1-5
Mark 7:31-37
September 9, 2018

Many times we hear of “crowds” that come to Jesus.  The Jews had been waiting for a 1,000 years for a messiah who was the heir of David.  So, some of the Jews were coming to him to see if he could be the one.

We would expect Jesus to draw a crowd in Jewish territory.  Today we hear that Jesus has travelled “into the district of the Decapolis.”  This would be a Roman territory.  So the people would not be Jewish.  Yet, even there word has spread about Jesus.

The people had heard about the miracles Jesus did, driving out demons and curing people.  So, the local people brought to Jesus “a deaf man who had a speech impediment,” seeking a miracle by asking Jesus “to lay his hand on him.”

The laying of hands is a gesture of invoking God’s grace on the person.  Jesus does heal the man but not quite in the way they expected.  The laying of hands involves “touch” symbolizing care.

With compassion, Jesus touches the man but in a different way than expected.   Rather than simply lay his hands on the man’s head, Jesus put “his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue.”  His contact with the man is at the point of the man’s impairments, his deafness in his ears and his speech impediment on his tongue.

Jesus does more.  He “looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha” – that is, “Be opened.”  Jesus speaks one word, “Ephphatha” and the man is immediately healed.

Imagine how the man must have felt!  How much he might have had to say!  Where might he begin?

He began by, despite Jesus direction “not to tell anyone,” by going out and telling everyone he could find.  He did this in joy.  He did this in gratitude for his healing.  The man who had been deaf and unable to speak proclaimed the good news.

Are you deaf?  If you are hearing what I am saying, you must have some hearing ability but how good?  As we get older, we can have diminished physical hearing.  They have wonderful hearing aids to help with this but the point I really want to get to is do we hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us.  Physical hearing aids (like the one I am wearing) aren’t the solution here.

What keeps us from hearing the Holy Spirit speaking to us, from hearing God whispering in our “ears”?  Are we too busy with earthly activities to hear Jesus?  Do we fill our entire day with earthly activities whether it be a job, school, sports, and/or plays?

Even when we hear the sound of Christian words, are we listening?

For example, there are a couple of Christian radios stations in the area.  Depending on where you live you might even be able to get a Catholic radio station out of Rochester.  Perhaps you turn it on for the Christian music.  Are you listening to the music or the Christian message?

Right now you found time to come to church.  You have heard the sound of God’s words in the scripture but were you listening?  Right now, you hear the sound emitting from my mouth but do you hear what the Spirit is saying to you?

We need to ask Jesus to help us open our ears to hear what God is saying to us in the readings, in music, and through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ last words to his disciples before ascending told them to go out and proclaim the good news.  To do so, we must first listen to God’s Word for ourselves.  This means opening our ears.

Remember the word that Jesus spoke to the deaf man?  Ephphatha!  When we do a baptism at Mass, the last words I use at the end of the baptism are “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak.  May he soon touch years to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God.”

Baptism is a beginning, not an end.  We have much to learn.  Confirmation is a stepping stone.  It is not a completion of our Catholic education.  God still has move to reveal to us.  What you know, what I know with a Master of Divinity is only a beginning.  It is not just learning commandments to list.  It is to find their meaning and take it into our hearts.  It is to seek to live them out.

Continuing our Catholic “education” begins in continuing to come to Mass where God’s Word is proclaimed and explained.  Can you do more?  For instance, we know we are supposed to forgive but what does this mean?  In the first week of October, I will be doing a talk on forgiveness.

May the Lord help you to listen to his words with your mind and your soul.  May you then in turn share God’s words with others in what you do and say.

Jesus healed the man of his deafness and speech impediment.  He wants to do the same for us on a much deeper level.


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