23rd Sunday Ordinary Time

We hear in today’s Scripture how God heals. When we hear of God‘s healing, most likely we think of physical healing. And certainly it does occur as God interacts with humanity. However, there is a deeper healing that also occurs. Healing of fear and rejection.

Our first reading comes from the great Old Testament prophet Isaiah. He is God‘s messenger. Isaiah delivers this message – “To those who hearts are frightened – be strong, fear not.” God will heal. Now think about that. This message is particularly targeted to those whose hearts are frightened. Be strong, fear not.

All throughout the Gospels, Jesus addresses the matter of fear many times. Jesus will say, “Do not be afraid.” Or He will say, “Fear not.”

Fear can overwhelm us. It can keep us from sleeping. It can keep us from moving forward in relationships. It can paralyze us into a state of sorrow and inaction. We may not act on some thing because we are afraid. We may be afraid of failure. We may be overwhelmed with fear about our own health. We may be overwhelmed by fear regarding the well-being of those we love. The evil one loves to fuel our fears. Like glowing embers in a fire, the devil loves to act as a bellows that will fuel the flames of fear.

No wonder God delivers this message. “To those whose hearts are frightened to be strong fear not.” Following these words – comes a promise.

God says He will heal. He will take care of those who are hurting. We have the great formula for predicting the Messiah. This is called the Messianic formula – given to us Isaiah and then again in our Psalm 146. The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk, the mute will speak, and the dead will be raised to life. When these things occur, then the Messiah is among us. This is a direct and clear promise, a direct and clear prophesy that predicts the activity of Jesus. The healing activity of Jesus declares Him as the Messiah – the One Who saves.

Mark’s Gospel picks up on this very clear indicator. Mark shows Jesus healing the mute and the deaf. The man with a speech impediment. At the time of Jesus if someone had such a severe health impediment, that person would have been rejected by the community. So whenever Jesus heals, He heals in terms of the physical, but also in terms of relationship. He heals in terms of how a person is able to be in relationship with others and how they see themselves. Once healed the person realizes they are indeed good and lovable.

This begs the question of us today, what do we have in our life that causes us to be afraid? What worries or anxieties plague our minds and spirit? Do we turn to God for healing? Do we turn to God for strength? It may not be the experience like those of the Gospel where our physical suffering is immediately relieved, but do we take strength from being connected to God? Do we take strength from being LOVED by God? Do we know that fear prevents us from seeing things clearly? Are we open to seeing God working in our lives? Are we open to accepting God’s plan for us? The subject is addressed many times in the Old Testament and New Testament. It is such a common experience. And yet over and over we see that God is present, God saves, God cares.

God is not indifferent to our circumstance. He enters into it. He knows what it is to suffer. He is with us. Whatever your challenge is today, I urge you to give it to God. Ask God to save. Ask her to heal. Ask God to open your heart – like the man cured in today’s Gospel. Know that you are cared for and that you are loved.

Let us hear again the words of God spoken by Isaiah, “Be strong, fear not,” and the words of Jesus as He speaks to our spirit, “Ephphatha! Be opened!”

First Reading
Is 35:4-7a

The ears of those who are deaf will be cleared; and the tongue of those who are mute will sing.

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah

Thus says the LORD:
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
   Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
   he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
   he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
   the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
   then the tongue of the dumb will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
   and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
   and the thirsty ground, springs of water.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10

R. :

R. (1b) Praise the Lord, my soul!
R. Alleluia.

The God of Jacob keeps faith forever,
   secures justice for the oppressed,
   gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.

R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
R. Alleluia.

The LORD gives sight to the blind;
   the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
   the LORD protects strangers.

R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
R. Alleluia.

The fatherless and the widow the LORD sustains,
   but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
   your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia.

R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
R. Alleluia.

Second Reading
Jas 2:1-5

Did not God choose the poor to be heirs of the Kingdom?

A reading from the Letter of Saint James

My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
   as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
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?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world
   to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom
   that he promised to those who love him?

Acclamation before the Gospel
Cf. Mt 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Mk 7:31-37

He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.

✠ A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre
   and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
   into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
   and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
   and, spitting, touched his tongue;
   then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
   “Ephphatha!”—that is, “Be opened!”—
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
   his speech impediment was removed,
   and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
   the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
   “He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

At the end of the Gospel, the Deacon, or the Priest, acclaims:

The Gospel of the Lord.

All reply:

Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

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