SR-2018-09-09

SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – September 9, 2018


This Sunday’s Theme: The Healing Activity of Our Lord.

Christ who carried out His Father’s will for our salvation, even unto the death on the cross, deserves our unending gratitude. Eternity will not be long enough for us to thank and praise Him. Let us first remember those of God’s Chosen People, the Jews, who preserved the knowledge of God and trust in His promises thru analogies of God’s saving grace via healings to body and soul. Secondly, we must never forget the Apostles and disciples of Christ who devoted and gave their lives in order to bring the Christian faith to us via the stories of Jesus’ teachings and, body and soul healings. The best way to show appreciation of a gift is to use it fully and gratefully. Let us make full use of the divine gift of salvation by living according to its teaching all the days of our lives. (CatholicCulture.org)


Reading 1 – Isaiah 35:4-7a     Isaiah prophesies about God’s vindication.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 146:7-10     A song of praise to God.

Reading 2 – James 2:1-5     James teaches that there is to be no partiality within the Christian community.

Gospel – Mark 7:31-37     Jesus restores a man’s hearing and speech.


Reading 1     Isaiah 35:4-7a              (The Messiah’s Coming)

The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.
Today’s Reading – The prophet Isaiah is sent to speak good news to a people in exile who are broken and filled with fear. The prophet tells them that their bad times are coming to an end. God is coming to heal their spiritual and physical maladies, and to heal their land.

Thus says the LORD: Say to those whose hearts are frightened[i]: Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God, He comes with vindication
(liberation); with divine recompense (restoration)
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.
[ii] 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.[iii]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.       the eyes of the blind be opened” this ties into the Gospel reading where Jesus cures the blind man. 


Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 146:7-10                     (The Lord’s Saving Deeds)

Today’s Psalm – This is a Psalm of praise to a God who brings redemption and liberation to those who are oppressed.

R. – Praise the Lord, my soul!
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!
The LORD gives sight to the blind
[iv]; the LORD raises up those who were bowed down. The LORD loves the just; the LORD protects strangers.
R. – Praise the Lord, my soul!
The fatherless
(orphans) and the widow the LORD sustains[v], 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!


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.       The LORD gives sight to the blind” – this ties into Reading 1 and the Gospel.


Reading 2     James 2:1-5                    (No Favoritism with God)

Context – The Letter of James is a sermon on how Christians ought to live. It is a pure specimen on the ethical teaching found in the Sermon On The Mount. St. James is called “the younger” or “the less” to distinguish him from James the brother of John. On account of his close kinship with Jesus he is known as the “brother of the Lord.” It is sometimes asserted that James is in conflict with Paul on the question of faith and works. James states “faith without works is dead.”  Paul states “the righteous shall live by faith”. However the difference between the two is one of emphasis and vocabulary. For Paul faith = obedient belief. For James faith = works and belief. So, “obedience” and “works” tie the two Apostles together in agreement.
Today’s Reading – Social discrimination is strongly and bluntly condemned: “Brothers and sisters, show no partiality.” The poorly dressed should not be treated any differently from those with the trappings of wealth.  In fact, God would have true disciples develop a special affection or preferential option for the poor, the downcast, the suffering, and all who are treated as unimportant in our world. True disciples will go out of their way to welcome and include those whom our society is wont to exclude. Also, in today’s polarized world, we should not discriminate because of one’s gender, race, nor ideology. The more humble and understanding people are, the more honor they deserve. We are all children of God. “One must first know and “live in Jesus” in order to recognize Him in others.” (St. Faustina Diary “503)

My brothers and sisters, show no partiality (prejudice) 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[vi], 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[vii] to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He promised to those who love Him?


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Mark 7:31-37                                 (Cure of a Deaf-Mute)

Context – St. Mark’s Gospel was the first written of the Gospels contained in the New Testament. The date of writing was prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. St. Peter was Mark’s primary source of information about the life of Jesus. Mark is primarily known by his Roman name “Mark” but is sometimes called by his Jewish name “John” in other New Testament Writings. He was a cousin to Barnabas and an associate of St. Paul. Recognizing Jesus as the divine Son of God is the goal of this gospel. And it was written to encourage Christians who were suffering persecution for their faith. It begins with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.
Today’s Reading – The Gospel is the fulfillment of Reading 1 that speaks about God healing the deaf and the mute.  In this story, Jesus is showing His concern and hospitality for suffering person who is most likely excluded from the community. He offers healing, acceptance, and wholeness to a man with two disabilities.  Notice that Jesus physically touches the man. The deaf and mute man is, in a way, symbolic of the Gentile people. Until that time, they are unable to hear God’s message and unable to speak it. The command not to tell anyone is called the “messianic secret.”  Because most of the people have a wrong understanding of the nature of the Messiah (they expect Him to be a military person, a new David), Jesus does not want His messiahship to be broadcast until He has time to explain its true nature, namely, that of a suffering servant. Jesus will conquer, not with military might, but by suffering on the cross.

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis[viii]. And people brought to Him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged Him to lay His hand on him[ix]. He took him off by Himself away from the crowd. He put His finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue;[x] 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.[xi] 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.”[xii]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           “He looked up to heaven and groaned” – 1. We must not suppose that our Savior here groaned on account of any difficulty he experienced in working this miracle, but only from commiseration for the man, whom he was about to heal; as likewise to show, how very difficult is the cure of those who are spiritually deaf and mute by sin. He was affected in a similar manner when he raised Lazarus to life (“Jesus wept.” – John 11:35), to show with what difficulty a man, dead and buried in sin by evil habits, can arise from that miserable state. (St. Carthage)
2. Romans 8:26 – “In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words.”
3. What is groaning? It is a type of strong prayer. In the Greek the word groaning can be traced back to a word meaning to give birth, or travail. (eBible.com). “Groanings” or “groans” expresses feelings of compassion for our weak condition. The Holy Spirit requests the Father’s help for us with deep compassion. (Lumina)

Catechism 1503 – Christ’s compassion toward the sick and His many healings of every kind of infirmity are a resplendent sign that “God has visited His people” and that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins; He has come to heal the whole person, soul and body; He is the physician the sick have need of. His compassion toward all who suffer goes so far that He identifies Himself with them: “I was sick and you visited Me.” His preferential love for the sick has not ceased through the centuries to draw the very special attention of Christians toward all those who suffer in body and soul. It is the source of tireless efforts to comfort them.

Catechism 1504 –  Often Jesus asks the sick to believe. He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands, mud and washing. The sick try to touch Him, “for power came forth from Him and healed them all.” And so in the Sacraments Christ continues to “touch” us in order to heal us.


 


[i]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
“those whose hearts are frightened” = Those who are in exile because of their unfaithfulness.
[ii]  “the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; … the lame leap like a stag, … the tongue of the mute will sing” = The former “restrictions” of these believers will end, and they will rejoice because the Lord is redeeming them.
[iii]  “Streams will burst forth …, burning sands will become pools, … thirsty ground, springs of water” = Water breaking out in the arid wilderness is a symbol of the blessings from God that the redeemed Hebrews will shortly experience.
[iv]   Responsorial Psalm Footnotes:
“gives sight to the blind” = The Lord enlightens the people.
[v]  “The fatherless (orphans) and the widow the LORD sustains” = This represents finding and reaching out to all those in need and taking practical steps for providing their welfare.
[vi]  Reading 2 Footnotes:
“your assembly” = Synagogue, Catholic Church. or any social gathering.
[vii]  “those who are poor in the world” = The point is not that poverty itself is a blessing but that those with little in the world are better prepared to rely on God for their needs. It is the attitude that those who trust in their heavenly Father secures their inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven.
[viii]  Gospel Footnotes:
Decapolis = Gentile territory.
[ix]  “lay His hands on him” = The imposition of hands on the sick was a common feature in ancient healing rituals. It is based on the idea that the healer is a powerful person and is able to transmit healing. Imposition of hands is a common New Testament form of healing and exorcism.
[x]  “He put His finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue” = The laying on of Jesus’ hands would of itself have been sufficiently efficacious, and even, without moving a finger, He might have accomplished it by a single act of His will; but it is evident that He wanted to make abundant use of outward signs (like Sacraments), when they were found to be advantageous. Thus, by touching the tongue with spittle, He intended to point out that we are to communicate using His words; and by putting His fingers into the ears, He showed that we are to listen to His words.
[xi]  “He ordered them not to tell anyone.” = Jesus’ prohibition of talking about the cure is probably part of Mark’s insistence that Jesus is more than a healer and that His full identity only becomes known later by Jesus’ cross and resurrection. Scholars refer to this effort of Jesus to suppress His own fame as “the Messianic Secret” of Mark’s Gospel.
[xii]  “He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”  = See Isaiah 35:5-6 (part of our first reading) which is part of a vision of Israel’s glorious future. This brings out the theological lesson of the cure: the age of Messianic salvation, announced by Isaiah, has arrived with Jesus.