Twenty-Third-Sunday in Ordinary Time

2018 Homilies Sunday Homilies

Isaiah 35: 4 – 7a Gospel – Mark 7: 31 – 37

God is a hands-on God. Throughout the Scriptures there are beautiful descriptions of God being personally involved with creation, especially with us. From the book of Genesis where we read that God created us by forming us out of the earth and then breathing life into us, to Revelation where we are told that we will see the face of God, and God’s name will be on our foreheads, we see how closely involved God is with creation and with us. Most of all we see this when God himself becomes one of us in order to save us. Jesus, truly God and truly man, was born into our world and walked, lived and died among us. All of this so that he could personally take the punishment for our sins so that he would rise and extend to us the invitation to follow him and rise with him. This is all part of God’s plan for us. A plan that will be fulfilled with the second coming of Christ.

The Prophet Isaiah and the Gospel very nicely illustrate the continuity and progression of God’s plan from the Old Testament to the New Testament, and to our own time. Isaiah was a prophet during a period when the leadership of Jerusalem was weak and, against the prophetic advice of Isaiah, entered into an alliance with Assyria. Assyria took control and the people of Jerusalem were oppressed. The reading for this Sunday has Isaiah prophesying not to be afraid, that God would come to vindicate them. When this prophecy is fulfilled, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared.” These are prophetic images of Jerusalem being set free, healed and restored. Isaiah speaks of God in a personal manner as the one who knows those basic needs of ours. He spoke not only of the immediate promise of God to restore Israel, but his message looked towards the fulfillment of God’s plan of sending a Messiah and Redeemer.

Throughout the Gospels Jesus fulfills the prophecy as he opens the ears of the deaf and restores the speech of those with impediments, he also opens the eyes of the blind, heals the crippled, raises the dead back to life, and ultimately takes away our sins. This is so much more than what the people who heard Isaiah’s message expected.

In this particular Gospel passage we see the compassion and tenderness of Jesus when he ministered. It was not a ministry from a distance, or one that was preoccupied with formality. It was a ministry in which he personally became involved with those who came for help. In the Gospel the people begged Jesus to lay hands on the deaf man with a speech impediment. Jesus did much more; he put his finger into the man’s ears and touched his tongue. This is probably far more than most of us would do if asked to pray for someone, but for Jesus it a natural response of God’s love and personal involvement with us.

This Gospel is a good reminder and lesson for us of how to look on God. In our minds, hearts and devotions we sometimes place a great distance between us and God, while these Scriptures show us how close God is to us. He desires to reach out and touch us, whether it be to heal us of some infirmity, comfort us during a time of sorrow, or forgive us when we sin against him. When we turn our hearts and lives to God we always receive far more than we expect.

Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.