Homily for twenty third Sunday B08 Sep 2018, by Sermons in
Today’s first reading sounds like its advent season already; the prophet Isaiah prophesied about the messiah’s coming. He is coming; vengeance is coming, he says. He is also coming with healing power to open the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, heal the lame, and make the dumb speak. However, he says nothing about where those to be healed will come from; he said nothing about their nationality, color, and social status; he said that these people would be healed. For him, their nationality and social status are of no importance. What matters is that the Lord is coming to heal those in need of healing; he is coming to make the dry land springs of water. He makes his sun shine on bad and good alike and gives rain to those who do good and those who do evil (Mt.5:45).
That is our God; he has no favorite. His love is unconditional; it does not depend on what we’ve done or did not do. Nothing one would do today would make God love one better than what he feels for us right now; he loves us so much. He died and opened the gates of paradise for the sake of love, and he punishes offenses also for the sake of love.
James calls on us today to learn from Christ, to love unconditionally, and rise above discrimination. He says, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. This same message is preached by Christ, not in words but actions.
The evangelist Mark tells us in our gospel passage that returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. It was a long and zig-zag journey, even though there was a shorter route to his destination. For whatever reason, Jesus had to take that long route; the good news is that he went through the Gentile region, and the people welcomed him. The Jews and the Gentiles were traditional enemies, the Jews saw the Gentiles as ritually unclean, but Jesus, a Jew, went into the region of the so-called unclean people to bring about reconciliation. The people accepted his reconciliatory move, and they become one. St. Paul talking about this reconciliation and oneness in Christ says; For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:27-28). That oneness is what St. James is talking about in our second reading; we are one in Christ irrespective of our status, and Jesus demonstrated that oneness in our gospel reading today. He did not only enter the Gentile territory but also saw God’s image in them and identified with them.
They believed in him, and they brought their sick to him for healing. When they brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech, Jesus took him aside. He took him aside to respect his feelings, to protect him from embarrassment, and treated him as the human being that he is. His deafness and speech impediment does not make him less human, for he too is the Son of Abraham. In him reflects the father’s image, his condition could not hide; neither was his shabby clothes able to hide the reflection of the Father’s image in him.
Jesus looked beyond his condition, his beautiful or shabby dress, the gold ring, and his nationality to see the image of God in him. We all carry the image of God in us, So is whoever we meet in life, we are all children of God.
Therefore, we are reminded not to learn to use different standards in our relationships; the only standard recommended is love. To love, not because we share nationality, but because we carry the same image, the image, and likeness.
Jesus took the deaf man aside and healed him. The healing process is exciting; we know that Jesus has the power to command deaf ears to be opened and the ligament of his tongue to be loosened, yet Jesus took the pains to put his fingers in the man’s ears and touch his tongue with his spittle. It was believed that spittle had some healing power; even when I was growing up as a child, we believed that. When we are injured, we either cover the wounds with dust or spittle. That was exactly what Jesus did, not because he believed in the healing power of spittle but because he wanted to come down to the level of man and lift him. Jesus touched his tongue with his own spittle and then looked up to heaven to show that our help comes from above. Jesus meets us the way we are; he expects us to meet each other the way we are, not judge, using different standards. To learn to accept each other as brothers and sisters irrespective of our status.
He ordered the people not to tell anyone about the healing because he wanted them to listen to God’s word and believe, not because of miracles.
As we celebrate this Sunday, let us learn to accept one another as we are and give God the chance to lift us above our weaknesses.