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, 9-10 (1b)
James 2:1-5
Mark 7:31-37
September 3, 2021

Thus says the LORD:  Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!

Fear can be a powerful thing.  Fear can dictate our actions.  What are you afraid of?  How does your fear effect your choices?

Fear can affect people making life decisions. 

We might fear suffering.  It is hard.  That’s why we call it suffering.  There are people who fear suffering from illness so much that they make a bad choice to end their lives too soon.

On the other hand, there are people who fear dying so much that they will do anything to stay alive.

How can we help them? 

For those who fear dying, we can share with them the good news of eternal life in the Resurrection.  Physical death is not the end.  As we hear in the first preface for the dying at a funeral Mass, “life is changed, not ended.”  When a person fears they will not make it to Heaven, we share with them that Jesus willingly gave his life so that our sins might be forgiven. 

In faith, instead of fearing death, we can look forward to eternal life.

What about those who fear suffering?  We cannot take away their physical suffering but we can walk with them through their suffering.  Knowing that we will be there with them can strengthen them to face their suffering.  In faith, we point them to Jesus who endured great suffering for us.  Suffering can lead to redemption.

What about those who face beginning of life decisions?  Fear can greatly influence their decisions.  If they fear being able to take care of the child, their fear might lead them make a bad choice towards abortion. 

What can we do?  We can help them by contributing to resources they need both during the pregnancy and after.  It can be material support of food, clothing, and diapers.  Or it can be emotional support.  Just knowing someone is there can help emotionally. You can with material needs even for strangers by supporting groups like our local food pantry and groups that distribute clothing.  In our parish, you can help those dealing with a pregnancy this weekend by contributing financially at the Walk for Life tables in our churches this week (see https://www.friendsoftheprc.org/).  The money goes to support the Southern Tier Pregnancy Resource Center.

God feeds the hungry and brings justice to the oppressed.  Sometimes, He wants to do it through you.  Even if you can’t help financially, pray for those who can and for those who need the help to receive what they need.

In today’s gospel we hear of Jesus healing the “deaf man who had a speech impediment.”  In those days, the man could not have worked to provide a living for himself or a family. 

On Monday we will celebrate Labor Day.  I find it ironic that people celebrate work by taking a day off.  Work is a good thing.  Work isn’t always easy or pleasant but when you find yourself lamenting your job, think of those who would love to find any job.  Work is both a means of providing for our families and finding fulfillment using the gifts God has giving us.

What did Jesus say to the deaf man?  “Ephphatha”!  The word means “be opened.”  At Jesus’ word, “the man’s ears were opened his speech impediment was removed.

Do you open your ears to what God says to you?  Are you listening to hear what God asks you to do?

Do you open your lips to allow God to speak through your lips to offer faith and truth to the world?

Do you open your heart to the love of Jesus?  Receiving his love, do you offer love to others?

Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love our neighbor.  It is not always easy to love.  Look at what Jesus does for you in love.  He willingly lays down for you.  Look at the Cross.  See Jesus suffering as He sacrifices his life for you.

Then respond by loving God and loving your neighbor.

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