Sunday homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: I AM CALLED TO SHARE IN THE HEALING MINISTRY OF JESUS CHRIST (THE MESSIANIC COMPASSION)
By: Rev Fr Utazi Prince Marie Benignus Zereuwa4
Homily for Sunday September 5 2021
Isaiah 35: 4-7a; Psalm 146: 7, 8-9, 9-10; James 2: 1-5; Mark 7: 31-37
I pray for you: May you respond to God’s invitation to be open to all that the Lord Jesus has for you, both the gifts which He desires to bestow on you and the deeds He desires you to do, especially for the needy around you. AMEN
Many people see their importance in having some sort of connection with people who are in the limelight who have fame, are well known by people. It may be having autographs or pictures from and with people who are famous. If they have the privilege of actually having athletic personalities or known actors as friends, even distant friends, they think that having those connections makes them more important in the eyes of others. The Lord Jesus challenges us to reach out and touch some of the children of His Father, that is, our fellow Christians, our fellow human beings, especially those most in need of our help. We are asked to care for those who will not be able to repay us or bring us more attention. Are you willing to care for God’s loved ones, the poor and disabled, the disenfranchised and lowly?
Today September 5, we also celebrate the memorial of and reflect on the Life of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She is a woman whose life is full of Gospel virtues, a woman worthy of emulation. Today, I may not say that it is coincidental that the readings of this Sunday appear to reflect her life style. But I will say it is by Divine arrangement. We recall how she spread the Good News by her life of service, particularly to the poorest of the poor and the outcasts of society. God loves all people, yet the blessings God gives seem to be preferential.
Let us see the readings. The first reading uses the image of the deaf person to show what God would one day do for his people. The Israelites had shut their ears and no longer listened to the Lord. But one day, God was to cure their deafness. By gescribing the healing, the Gospel is saying that the Messianic times promised in the first reading have arrived. Ears are now opened, and tongues loosened in order to announce the Gospel. The second reading describes a community deaf to the word of God and to the voice of the poor.
In the First Reading, Isaiah addresses the Jews who are in Exile in Babylon. He describes how God will bless those who are suffering in exile, as opposed to those who live in more affluent and prosperous ways. It is an encouraging word that God knows of their hardships and will not only come to them to lead them back to the Promise Land, but God will heal the deaf, the dumb, the lame, and blind. Not only will the Lord bring liberation and healing of maladies, God will bring water and life out of the dry and lifeless paths on which the people journey as they return to the land which God gave to their ancestors. Fantastic!!! This is a Divine assurance to someone reading this homily.
The psalm portrays the deeds God performs for the outcasts, disenfranchised, and disabled. The psalmist presents God as the One Who reaches out to the Anawim (literally “those who are bent over” or “those who are crushed” – the physical, social, and financial outcasts). God brings healing to those who are sick, protects those who are without the normal means of protection, and lifts up the poor and lowly.
In the second reading, the Scripture condemns the favoring of the rich and famous over the poor and lowly. James speaks to the members of the faith community challenging them not to show partiality toward those who are rich, prestigious, or famous. All are to be treated equally, or if there is to be any type of favoritism shown, it should parallel the actions of God which show God’s choice of the poor and lowly over the rich and powerful.
In the Gospel, Jesus reaches out to an apparent non-Jew who suffers from not being able to hear or speak correctly. Jesus travels into pagan lands (Decapolis or the “Ten Cities”) which were east of the Sea of Galilee. There the locals (therefore non-Jews) bring to Jesus a man who was suffering from a hearing and speech problem. Jesus takes the man aside and performs physical actions; sticking His finger in his ears, spitting, touching his tongue, groaning, and speaking the word “Ephphatha” – “Be open!”. The man is able to hear and speak. True to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells the man and those who hear about the miracle not to proclaim what Jesus has done. Some scholars say that Mark centers on this “Messianic secret” because Jesus does not want the people to come to Him simply as the Wonder Worker Who heal them – thus showing that they are more concerned over the miracles than the teachings of Jesus. Others believe that Jesus does not want the proclamation of His miracles at this time because the full understanding of Jesus’ ministry is not able to be understood until after Jesus’ resurrection. It is only at the time of the completion of Jesus’ earthly ministry that He wants His deeds to be proclaimed. The miracle demonstrates Jesus’ compassion for those who are suffering, whether they are Jewish or not.
Dear Sisters and Brothers, it is very human to want to be associated with those who have wealth, power, or fame. We tend to favor those who can in some way make us look better or do something for us. We think it is more important “who you know” than “what you know.” We even say that people who seem to have everything have many blessings – that is, they are blessed by God. Yet if we look at today’s scripture passages and the many other sections of scripture, we see that if God favors anyone more than others, it is the poor, the sick, the outcast, the humble, and the lowly – the Anawim, that he favours; not the other way round. If we are truly to be holy as our God is holy, we are called to show the same concern for the disenfranchised and the less fortunate just as God does. Matthew 5: 43-48 and Luke 6: 27-36 command us to extend our love out to our enemies and to those who cannot repay us for our showing love to them. That is how we imitate the God Who loves us more than we will ever be able to love God back.
Practically, I must make an effort to be fair in my treatment of those with whom I work and associate. The readings today make me look at how I treat others; make use of the possession which I have, and my attitude toward wealth and fame. In some sense, Jesus is reaching out to me, touching not just my ears and tongue, but my eyes and my mind, saying to me, “Ephphatha – Be open.” I must be open to what God would have me hear, see, say, and do, to and for others. I am to be open to those who truly need my help. I should be open to God’s presence in those who are less fortunate than I.The Lord Jesus is asking me to be open to the Anawim – God’s lowly, yet cherished people. It is to them that I must show partiality – God’s partiality. God is need of Mother Theresas of Calcutta. Can you be one of them?
*MEDITATION* Do I show partiality or preferential treatment to others? Am I biased in my dealings with others? If I am, do I show more concern for the Anawim – the poor and disenfranchised – as the Lord Jesus shows? How can I be more aware of those who need my assistance? Who could most benefit from my complete attention to their concerns? What can I do to help others be more attentive to the needy among us?
*PRAYER* Our God and Father, may Your Son continue to speak to us as He did to the deaf and dumb man, and may we respond as He says, “Ephphatha – Be open!” Continue to gives us the insight, wisdom, and strength to follow the lead of Your Holy Spirit. Through the same Christ Our Lord. AMEN
*O DIVINE WORD WHO TOOK FLESH FOR HUMAN SAKE, REDEEM US IN OUR SITUATION*
© Rev Fr Utazi Prince Marie Benignus Zereuwa