23rd Sunday in ordinary time Year B, 2015, a realhomilie from Fr.Kevin Walsh, Sydney, Australia. The First Reading, Responsorial Psalm and Gospel for the Sunday. Family Prayer around God’s Word, and a Blessing from Iona Abbey in Scotland.
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.
(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
- 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.
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.’
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 we hear, ‘Rise, YHWH, God raise your hand* do not forget the poor!’ (Now before I go on, you may be thinking, why didn’t I spell Yahweh properly?
Out of respect for our Biblical tradition, and that of our Jewish brothers and sisters, we leave the a and e out) In this instance, it would seem that the raising of the hand is a sign of ‘the process of awakening faith, together with being saved or experiencing 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 says, ‘there the hand of YHWH (Lord God) came on me.’ In this Theophany, or manifestation of God’s saving authority; 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, 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.
We also pray for our Pope, and leaders of the Christian community through out the world. We also prayer in loving outreach to people in the world who are suffering as a result of natural disasters or war! 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. Sometimes sick people are at a loss as to how to pray! However, it would seem according to St.Theresa, that the desire to pray; is but prayer. 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. Goodness, I seem to be groaning more and more these days, especially when I am on my knees in the Kitchen looking for a special pot or pan….it’s the getting up off the floor that triggers my groans! In the case of Jesus and ourselves, our groans and sighs come from the deep recesses within our guts, and that is where true compassion springs from. 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. In that chapel there is the square cavity at the base of the Altar where some of St.Richard’s entrails were buried. They are not there now, because some one in the distant past t took them out….I am not sure as to when, but it could well have been in the 1500’s when so much damage was done to Catholic Sacred Sites.
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 upwards, 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! But spittle was also seen to be an agent containing healing properties.
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 the Mission of the Church! The New Heavens and the New Earth in the Book of Revelation!
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, receive 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. Fr.Kev.
PS: A Picture of St.Edmund’s Chapel in Dover, UK, and some very interesting information for you.