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THE LITURGY OF THE WORD.
It is very important for us to read God’s Word slowly and reflectively. We are not reading it just to get information or answer questions; we must enable God’s Word to enter us just like liquid polish enters timber that is thirsty for nutrition. A good rule of thumb is to have a question like this in our mind……”Lord, what are you saying to ME in your Word today? Secondly, how can my life be changed, in order to allow God’s Word to find a Home in my being? Finally, as for special Feasts, Advent and Lent, the three Readings are in a sequence which has an underlying thread running through them. In Ordinary time, the First Reading, and the Gospel are bridged…so we generally look for the link. The Second Reading is continuous, and follows on to the next Sunday.
First Reading: Isaiah 35:4-7
Say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.
‘Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy;
for water gushes in the desert,
streams in the wasteland,
the scorched earth becomes a lake,
the parched land springs of water.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
(Let’s PAUSE and reflect upon this reading, and let us ask ourselves the two questions stated above. That is our PERSONAL response to the Word. This might take a few minutes, try not to rush it. The Psalm and Antiphon is the COMMUNITY response to God’s Word, a bit like a short and sweet Text Message)
Psalm: Ps 145:7-10
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever,
who is just to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord, who sets prisoners free. R.
It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind,
who raises up those who are bowed down,
the Lord who loves the just,
the Lord, who protects the stranger. R.
The Lord upholds the widow and orphan,
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign for ever,
Zion’s God, from age to age. R.
Second Reading: James 2:1-5
My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, ‘Come this way to the best seats;’ then you tell the poor man, ‘Stand over there’ or ‘You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.’ Can’t you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?
Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Let’s PAUSE again after this Reading, and reflect on it like you did after the first Reading. The Community Acclamation follows and should be sung: e.g ALLELUIA, or PRAISE TO YOU LORD JESUS CHRIST KING OF ENDLESS GLORY. When we are present at our Sunday Eucharistic Celebration, the Alleluia or Praise be to you…should always be sung. Why? It’s a bit like singing Happy Birthday! We never say it… 🙂
Gospel: Mark 7:31-37
Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’ The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Reflection time again……. Can you see and hear the links, connecting the First Reading, and the Gospel? After that, we are then ready for what is to follow…..
DEEP SEA DIVING INTO THE SCRIPTURES
If you have ever opened your eyes under water, or used a snorkel and face mask, or had the opportunity to use an aqualung, it is a very different world to explore isn’t it? I love snorkelling, and it is though the fish welcome you into their world. However, they need to be treated with respect, and one must be aware of ‘no-go’ zones especially where sharks are known to call that place, ‘home’ especially at meal times. So, this next section is going down into the Scriptures, which opens the pathway for us to be curious about The Word, and it will also develop an appetite in us to do this more often.
Focusing the word
Key words and phrases
His ears were opened and he spoke clearly.
He has done all things well, he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.
It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind, who raises up those who are bowed down.
It was those who are poor according to the world that God chose.
Open our eyes to the wonders this life sets before us.
to the point
There’s more to this gospel than the healing miracle because there’s more to Jesus than being a miracle worker – he is the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy (‘the ears of the deaf unsealed . . . the tongues of the dumb sing’). This event discloses Jesus as saviour: ‘Your God is coming . . . he is coming to save you.’ Such good news cannot be contained – they proclaimed it.
Connecting the Word
to Ordinary Time
During Ordinary Time we hear one of the synoptic gospels proclaimed. The demands of this long liturgical season are more than hearing – we must also live the gospel, which is to say, proclaim it by the way we live.
to human experience
We learn to speak by first listening. This is also the posture of the disciples: to proclaim God’s word we must first be able to hear it.
Understanding the Word
Mission to the Gentiles
This Sunday’s gospel continues last week’s theme of Jesus’ outreach to the excluded – last week it was the unclean, now it is the Gentiles.
In this gospel Jesus travels through Gentile territories, specifically, into Lebanon (Tyre and Sidon) and afterwards into the district of the Decapolis (Greek for ‘ten cities’). Though these areas are quite distant from one another – Sidon is twenty miles north of Tyre and almost fifty miles northwest of the Sea of Galilee, while the Decapolis is to the southeast of the Sea of Galilee – they are all Gentile districts.
Travel into Gentile territory is a technique Mark uses to include Gentiles in Jesus’ mission. In 4:35–8:21 Jesus frequently crosses the Sea of Galilee. West and south of the sea is predominantly Jewish territory where he spends most of his time, while east and north is predominantly Gentile territory. The kinds of miracles Jesus performs on the west (Jewish) side of the sea are repeated on the east (Gentile) side. The most dramatic example is the two miraculous feedings. On the Jewish side, Jesus feeds 5000 people with five loaves (we read John’s account this year) and on the east side Jesus feeds a crowd of 4000 with seven loaves (the Lectionary omits this story). It used to be thought that Mark simply included two different versions of the same event in his gospel; but scholars now suggest that Mark shows Jesus doing similar things on both sides of the Sea to indicate that the Kingdom of God includes both Jews and Gentiles. And, if this is the case, then the mission of the Church should continue Jesus’ outreach to Gentiles.
This Gentile theme is continued in the reading from Isaiah. The reading is chosen primarily to correlate with the gospel because both readings describe the healing of the deaf and the mute. But there is more: the opening of Isaiah 35 makes reference to Lebanon, Sharon, and Carmel (35:2), all on the northwest coast where Tyre and Sidon of this Sunday’s gospel are located. In both readings, expansive geography suggests far-reaching salvation.
A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh
Dear One and All,
Today we hear a story about Jesus healing a deaf and dumb man. Was this to be a one off story or is it perhaps a never-ending story, which can be lived out today? Let us have a closer look at the words and actions of Jesus.
The story begins with a prayer of intercession. Others brought the man to Jesus. We don’t know who they were, but they obviously believed that Jesus could do something for this man just by laying his hand on him. We must not forget that the action of the ‘laying on of hands’ has a profound Biblical History. It is a sacred action, albeit a Sacramental accomplishment. Let’s have a quick look back into the Old & New Testament at this sacred action. In Psalm 10 verse 12 (Qoph) ‘Rise, YHWH, God raise your hand* do not forget the poor!’ ( Now before I go on, you may be thinking, why didn’t he spell Yahweh properly? Out of respect for our Biblical tradition and that of the Jewish people, we leave the a and e out) In this instance, it would seem that the raising of the hand is a sign of ‘being saved or salvation’ The ‘Poor’ of the Lord were the faithful few who sought life from listening to the Lord God and living their lives in hope. In the Prophet Ezekiel chapter 1 verse 3 ‘there the hand of YHWH (Lord God) came on me.’ In this Theophany, we see the ‘power’ of the Lord God exhibited ….not a power in the kilowatt sense, but the pneuma..The all embracing Spirit of the Lord which has the internal will of God and ‘changes’ people and situations. In Luke 5:13 Jesus in responding to the Leper …’stretched out his hand and touched him…’ Back to the Gospel of today: Bodily intercession for others appears frequently in the Gospels, when the person concerned is unable to get to Jesus, or, in this case, is unable to speak for himself. So other people take the prayerful initiative in walking with the man to Jesus. Such prayerful actions are always pleasing to the Lord. Remember the story of the lame man being lowered down through the roof and his stretcher being placed in front of Jesus? Jesus marvelled at their faith, and he healed the man. I must stop again so that we are on the same page in regarding their faith . It would seem that faith in this instance is seeing the saving hand of God at work in Jesus; notice that it was THEIR FAITH! It was a collective intercession! Each week in our Parish Bulletin we have a list of people that we are invited to pray for who are ill or deceased. Let’s never forget just how important it is to pray for the sick, because often the sick person will feel a special comfort, which is the fruit of our prayers. For our deceased relatives and friends, our prayer is an act of faith, hope and love.
Jesus takes the man aside in private; this is most certainly an act of trust by the deaf and dumb man in Jesus. Trust is the first requirement for healing! It is also the first requirement in any relationship! ( Human and Animal) Jesus touches the man’s ears and his tongue, and with a sigh, or a groan, which itself is a prayer from the Spirit within Jesus, enables the miracle to take place. Let’s stop here for a moment; groans, sighs; we all do them, it is really a language or a dialect…let us say an ‘in house’ dialect. The members of our family have a pretty good idea of what our sighs and groans mean….not just a word, but words from our inner depth of being embroiled into an inarticulate groan having deep and real meanings. In the case of Jesus and ourselves, our groans and sighs come from the deep recesses within our guts, and that is were true compassion springs forth. Some of our ancestors in faith in my genetic British history, used to bury the entrails of saintly people who were passionate and inspiring, in small cisterns at the base of the Altar. That might sound a bit ‘off’ to use nowadays, but no, in the middle ages our ancestors in faith tried to remind themselves, and imitate the passionate virtues of the Holy person. In this case some of the entrails of the great St.Richard of Chichester were placed in the Cistern for a time. So, if ever you are in Dover, UK, go to the Church or Post Office and say that you want to visit St.Edmund’s Chapel. There are a few families in Dover who have special interest and look after the Chapel, so you might be given a phone number to make arrangements. It is virtually in the centre of the Town.
Now let’s get back to the inarticulate groans….In St.Paul’s letter to the Romans Chapter 8: 26-27, He tells us, ‘ …through our inarticulate groans the Spirit himself is pleading for us’. As part of this inner groan and looking up to Heaven, Jesus says ‘Ephphatha’ which means ‘Be opened now!’ And it happened: The man could hear and speak clearly? What could he hear? The saving and healing Word of God. What could he say? That in Jesus the saving, healing hand of God is at work! Now you might ask, what about the use of spittle? We have to get our minds back to the Biblical understanding of water! This action was expressing something very wonderful……water = new life! This man was open to receiving the action of the Spirit at the hands of Jesus and thus also entered into new life. We need to link these actions to the great and poetic dissertation of Isaiah in the first reading…..namely that at the appropriate time in the ‘now and in the future’ that the saving hand of the Lord God will manifest itself through healing, new life and turning the world order upside down. This in short is part of the Mission of the Church!
There can be levels of deafness in our ability to really hear the Word of God. It is a ‘graced moment’ to really hear God speak to us. Mary had this grace in abundance. She was ‘full of grace’. It is a free gift, but only to those who want it, receives it. Let us ask the Lord today to touch my ears and tongue, and to free me from any blockages of deafness and dumbness.
What about the dumbness? This can so often cause us to be silent when we should speak. At times in can be moral cowardice. Being freed from this dumbness enables us to speak out against injustice, to give a word of praise, or to proclaim the message of Jesus. Speech is a wonderful God given gift. People can be built up by words of encouragement and praise, just as they can be destroyed by words of sarcasm and criticism.
Open my ears Lord help me to hear your voice,
Touch my heart and tongue O Lord, so that I may speak
Your Words of Love, compassion and forgiveness. Amen
God Bless you and your families and may we never forget each other in prayer.