Sunday Reflection: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B:
In today’s gospel reading (Mark 7:31-37), Jesus was confronted with a pathetic situation of a man who was deaf and dumb. Out of pity, he manifested his power to heal all types of infirmities by healing the man. The man’s healing was dramatic as St Mark records it: “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”. This gospel narrative fulfills in practical terms, the promise of the first reading (Isaiah 34:4-7). God through the Prophet Isaiah promised to visit the people of Judah: “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.” Jesus became the fulfillment of this messianic prophecy just as we saw in the gospel reading.
One could be physically deaf and dumb and/or spiritually deaf and dumb. One is physically deaf and dumb when one can neither hear nor talk. There is no communication because the ears and mouth which are two great organs of communication are inactive. But one is spiritually deaf and dumb when one’s spirit or soul can neither hear nor talk. Jesus describes this as those who have ears but cannot hear, have mouths but cannot speak. Here, there is no inward or outward communication in the spirit. The soul is just passive. Today, we are more concerned with the deafness and dumbness of the soul.
Each time we fail to hear the voice of God speaking to us through our consciences, each time we fail to read the Bible, each time we fail to listen to or read up a reflection on the Word of God, each time we fail to listen to the pleas of the poor, the oppressed and the neglected, then we are spiritually deaf and need God’s healing. Each time we fail to pray, to proclaim the Good News, to say the truth, to speak friendly words or words of exhortation, then we are spiritually dumb and need God’s healing. This questions our reactions when we discover that we are spiritually deaf and/or dumb. What do we do, who do we run to and how do we go about it? Do we go to Jesus for healing just as they brought the deaf and dumb man? Do we follow him away from the crowd? In the midst of the noisy crowd, we can neither be heard clearly nor hear clearly and that is why we need to follow Jesus aside in private, away from the crowd so that we may have a direct contact and healing from him.
As we reflect on the healing of this man, we may forget the good works of those who brought him to Jesus to be healed. Some people discriminate against the sick, the physically challenged and unfortunate ones. They can neither associate with them nor help them to be healed since they have nothing to offer. This is wrong. Such unfortunate persons, the bible refers to as “the poor” because they are dependent on others. They include the sick, widows, orphans, beggars, destitute and all those who live on the charity of others. But unfortunately, these are the ones most people in the society avoid or look down upon.
That is why St James in the second reading (James 2:1-5) advises us: “do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people” for “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”. Therefore, in today’s Eucharistic celebration, let us pray that God may loosen our tongues and strengthen our ears, that we may join in the gospel acclamation to pray “speak Lord, your servant is listening…” That our ears may hear the Good News and our tongues proclaim it in words and actions, especially by avoiding all sorts of discrimination between the poor and the rich, fortunate and less fortunate, old and young, sick and healthy so that at the end of our lives, through our actions we may join the responsorial psalmist to say “My soul give praise to God”. God loves you. Happy Sunday.
Fr. Chibuike Uwakwe