Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 9, 2012)

 

“He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak,” the people say in response to the awesome acts of Jesus. The people see the remarkable deeds of Jesus and they begin to believe. Jesus’ life giving actions bring healing and life.

St. Mark presents this episode in the ministry of Jesus in witness to His authority and power. The first reading for today’s Mass gives us a context for understanding the Gospel at a deeper level. Isaiah offers words of hope and encouragement saying “Be, strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.” Isaiah continues the passage by describing the divine activity of salvation – “the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared…the tongue of the mute will sing.”

The dawn of salvation will see these things happening. Jesus’ public ministry is the dawn of that salvation. The saving activity of God is the saving activity of Jesus. Thus Jesus fulfills the expectations and hopes of ancient Israel.

Today’s Gospel passage provides the basis of the ephphatha prayer during the Church’s baptismal liturgy for children. During the baptism rite, following the baptism itself the priest or deacon blesses the mouth and ears of the infant saying: “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May He soon touch your ears to receive His word, and your mouth to proclaim His faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.”

Whether infants or adults, all through our lives we have the opportunity to receive His word and to proclaim His faith. When we think of the physical growth that occurs from infancy to adulthood we might also think of the spiritual growth that occurs. Throughout our lives, the depth of our understanding and experience of the living presence of the Lord in our lives continues to grow and develop.

So in a real way that prayer from our baptism continues throughout life. We pray today that we may hear His word with our heart and proclaim the praise that is His.

The Gospel also reminds us of Jesus’ care and concern for the poor and needy. Jesus brings salvation and healing to those most in need, not only in this passage but throughout the entire Gospel. He is continually offering His healing presence and word to those in need regardless of their social status.

The second reading for today’s Mass from the Letter of St. James reminds us of the importance of being disinterested and showing no “partiality.”  In other words, we should seek out those in need with no interest in what they can do for us or how they can return the kindness.

The letter states: “For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say ‘Sit here, please,’ while you say to the poor one, ‘Stand there,’ or ‘sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?’”

The love of Christ shows no partiality and as His disciples we are called to imitate this love. St. James notes that if one shows partiality he makes himself a “judge with evil designs.” The association is a reminder that there is only one judge – Jesus. If we make these distinctions then we make ourselves judges, a role not ours. Humility calls us to recognize Jesus in both the rich and poor alike.

Jesus opened the ears and mouths of the deaf and mute. We pray today that he may open our ears to hear His word; our eyes to see the needs of those before us and our mouths to proclaim His praise.

***

Msgr. Prior is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Morrisville.