Please press here to listen to the homily or download
Twenty-third Sunday – Year B – Ordinary Time
Readings: Isa 35:4-7a; Jas 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-37.
Reading 1 (Isa 35:4-7a):
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 mute 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.
Reading II (Jas 2:1-5): RSV James 2:1 My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man with gold rings and in fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while you say to the poor man, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?
Gospel (Mk 7:31-37): 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.”
Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Let God liberate us from both spriritual and physical diseases.
Human beings are surrounded by countless dangers both to the soul and to the body. To the soul, there are many devil and worldly temptations which attract people to live according to their flesh and to be far away from God. To the body, people must face all earthly catastrophes such as: famine, flood, volcano, hurricane, earthquake and war; in addition to these are all kinds of sickness such as: blind, deaf, mute and paralyze. When people face these dangers, they are easy to fall into two following attitudes:
(1) Denying God’s existence: Many people questioned why a merciful God let sufferings happen to the innocent. If they can’t find a proper answer, they shall not believe in God and they shall follow their own living way in this world.
(2) Recognizing the meaning of sufferings in human life: God let sufferings happen so that people may recognize the necessary of God’s presence in their life and help them to love each other more. A Vietnamese adage says, “If a person’s eye is hurt, he shall have compassion for the blind” or “he shall know how to value light.” This happened to Paul when he felt from his horse on the way to Damascus. After that, he recognized his blindness, both spiritually and physically, and began his journey to light and believed in Christ. Only God can liberate people from all dangers. People need to believe and come to him to be healed.
Today readings concentrate on dangers which people must face and the manners to be healed. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah affirmed the Israelites during their exile that God can do all; therefore, they shouldn’t be fearful and should strongly believe in God; He shall come and heal all of their sickness. In the second reading, St. Paul emphasized two spiritual sins needed to be healed which are prejudice and partiality. Christ is the one who heals people from these two diseases. In the Gospel, when people brought to Jesus a person who suffered both deaf and speech impediment and asked Jesus to heal him, he took him to a place and healed him from his sickness.
1/ Reading I: “He himself shall come and heal you.”
1.1/ The announcement of the good news: The historical background of this announcement is the two exiles of the Israelites from the 8th to the 6th century BC. Living in the exiles, the Israelites lost all of their hopes: the country, the temple and the faith in God. The prophet Isaiah foresaw the day God shall come to liberate His people from the exile, so he anounced the good news for the Israelites: “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.” This oracle could be applied in the following two periods:
(1) God liberated the Israelites from the exile and let them return to re-establish their country and to rebuild the temple. This happened when Cyrus, the Persian king obeyed God and released the Israelites, beginning on 538 BC.
(2) The Messiah himself shall come to heal all spiritual and physical sickness of people. This was fulfilled when Christ came.
1.2/ What shall be happened when the Messiah comes: What the prophet Isaiah described in this passage were fulfilled when Christ came: “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.” The prophet also reminded people of God’s power when He liberated people from Egypt and led them to the Promise Land: “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; the abode where jackals lurk will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.”
All of the above happened when Jesus healed people from the sickness of the body, such as: blind, paralyzed, mute and deaf, and from sickness of the soul such as: pride, jealousy and hypocrisy.
2/ Reading II: “Show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.”
2.1/ Don’t have prejudice for the poor and show partiality for the rich: People often have such a tendency, but the faithful can’t be like that. St. James adviced his faithful, “My brothers, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.”
He gave them a concrete example: “For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in 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?”
(1) Prejudice: is what a person thinks of other without checking to see whether it is right or not. For example, if they see a person in shabby clothes, they quickly come to a conclusion that person is poor; but they don’t know that there are some people who don’t want to be dependent on fashion, they want to dress simply and save money to do something which are more useful. Another example happened when some scribes and Pharisees judged Jesus only on the basis of his human origin and familial circumstances, and neglecting many of his wise teaching and wonderful miracles. It is their prejudice that confined them in their nearsighted viewpoints and prevented them from recognizing and believing in Christ.
(2) Partiality: Whatever they believe, they shall act according to it. Since they judged only according to outside appearance, they highly regarded those who fashionably dressed and insulted those who weared simple clothes. In reality, many people were deceived by their judgment only on outside appearance; for examples, many women chose to marry to handsome or rich or famous husband; later they found out that their husband are cunning, betraying, and using them. It is too late! In opposition, many people, though they aren’t looked good on outside appearance; but hidden inside them are a generous and merciful heart, they become good husbands or wives and bring happiness for their family.
2.2/ God loves the poor (anawim): To point out for his faithful to know the danger of judging only according to outside appearance, St. James reminded the faithful the first beatitude which Jesus taught, “Listen, my beloved brothers. 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?”
(1) Those who are poor don’t put their hope in anyone or anything, but only in God. It is their absolute belief in God that they inherit the kingdom of heaven which all the wordly inheritance can’t be compared with. Jesus taught this when he compared the kingdom of heaven as the treasure buried in a field.
(2) Christ himself lived a simple life on earth: He is the son of God, has in his hands all things in heaven and on earth; but he chose to live poorly, incarnated from the poor parents, born in a sheep cave, died nakedly on the cross, and be buried in a tomb which wasn’t belong to his family. His purpose is to set a good example for us and let us become rich when we are inherited the salvation.
3/ Gospel: Christ did everything good.
3.1/ Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy: After healing the daughter of a Phoenecian woman from demon because of her firm faith, Jesus came down to Galilee and entered the Decapolis region. People brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.
Both diseases, deaf and speech impediment, used to go together. To prevent him from being shy before the crowd, Jesus “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.”
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah foretold what shall happen when the Messiah come, “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.” This happened many times in Jesus’ public ministry. Besides that, Jesus himself also reminded people that he came to fulfill the prophet Isaiah’s prophecy when he returned to Nazareth and taught in a synagogue (Cf. Lk 4:16-21).
3.2/ Jesus didn’t like fame and praise: Mark reported, “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.””
God creates people and everything very good (Gen 1:31); but human sins turned the natural order up side down and caused many bad results and death. But God has His plan of salvation for people through Christ. He presents with God in creation, and shall recover the original order for people and the universe before he hands the kingdom in good condition back to God.
In opposition with what Christ does, human beings always find ways to destroy and to extinguish. Being Christ’s disciples, we have a duty to imitate Christ to protect life, to find all possible ways to heal and to respect what God has created.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God concerns with human life. He continually and wisely controls everything in the universe, especially sent Christ to heal all spiritual and physical sickness of human beings.
– When facing trials and sufferings, we shouldn’t be afraid and lose our hope but should firmly believe in God’s providence.
– Only Christ, the Son of God, can liberate people from dangers of both soul and body. No one can replace his role in God’s plan of salvation.
– Imitating Christ, we must also be the protectors of life and healers of both spiritual and physical diseases for people. We can also introduce people to Christ so they can believe in him and to be healed.