HOMILY OF 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
THEME: USE YOUR WORDS WISELY
BY: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 5 2021
Beloved in Christ we live in a world with a lot of background noise and as a result we find it hard to hear God speaking to us or hear the poor crying out to us for our help.
In today’s gospel, we have Jesus healing a man with a speech impediment. Perhaps the healing that we need is to be able to use our words more wisely to build one another up and to be more honest in our dealings with one another. All of us should be speaking a lot less and choosing our words more carefully. Just as Jesus opened the ears of the deaf man, we should pray that He open our ears so that we can listen more carefully to the fears, joys and struggles of those around us. Then we will be able to speak words that heal and encourage them as we work together to build a more just and peaceful society.
Beloved in Christ, in our second reading of today, from the letter of St. James, we are warned against discrimination. But we have to get the message clear. Discrimination is not same as distinction. When it comes to people it is very difficult for us not to make distinctions. We invariably favour some over others. We choose some and not others, just as we choose our friends and some of us even choose our friends carefully. A man chooses one woman to be his wife out of several women he may have come to know. A woman chooses one man to be her husband. Parents will favour their own children over other children. It is natural and human for us to make distinctions. But what James is warning us against in this morning’s second reading, is not to show favour on the basis of social class. James is saying that certain forms of favouritism are never acceptable within the community of believers. Everyone is to be treated equally regardless of their social background and status; in the context of worship there are to be no special seats for the more socially prominent. In all areas of church life everyone should feel equally valued. This is very much the point Paul was making in his letter to the Galatians when he declares that in virtue of baptism, ‘there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer salve or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’
James spells out that vision of Paul in very practical terms. That second reading from James prompts us to ask if any form of unhealthy favouritism is to be found in our own church, our own parish. Are there people we are not noticing? Are there voices we are not hearing? Are there people who would like to be involved in the life of the parish but whom we have made to feel that they are not welcome, that their potential contribution is not valued? I hope not but it is something we all need to keep alert to.
The gospel passage today, through the action of Jesus towards the man who was deaf and has impediment in speech challenges us. If as people who have been baptised into Christ, we are to have favourites, they are to be the voiceless, the afflicted, the vulnerable and the weak among us. The friends of the man in the gospel can be our inspiration in that regard. They brought the man to Jesus, and, in so doing, they opened him up to a whole new life, a life that was richer and fuller than he had ever known. They were his strength in weakness. Their voice, their speaking to Jesus on his behalf, led to his coming to have a voice of his own.
Beloved in Christ, there is power of life and death in the tongue. An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day. A destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them. We need to listen to what comes from God and tune out the rest. What comes from God are words that give life and fill us with faith, hope and love. When we hear words of encouragement, words of correction, words of forgiveness and healing, words of wisdom, words of enlightenment, let us be opened to those words. Those are words spoken by people who care for us and love us, and in and through those people, God is speaking to us. When we listen to those words, we will in turn speak those words. Then others will also know that God is speaking to them.
*Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya*