Homily for twenty third Sunday B

Today’s first reading sounds like its advent season already, the prophet Isaiah prophesied about the coming of the messiah. 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, to heal the lame and to make the dumb speak. He however did not tell us exactly where those to be healed will come from, he said nothing about their nationality, colour and social status; he simply said that these people will be healed.jesus-loves-us-all For him, their nationality and social status is 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. For he makes his sun to 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. There is nothing one would do today that 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 in actions.

The evangelist Mark tells us in our gospel passage today, 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. His reconciliatory move was accepted by the people 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 or 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 he saw the image of God 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 a human being that he is. His deafness and speech impediment does not make him less human, for he too is the Son of Abraham.the deaf and dumb In him is a reflection of the image of the father 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 who ever we meet in life; we are all children of God.

We are reminded therefore 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 of God.

Jesus took the deaf man aside and healed him. The healing process is very interesting; 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 at that time 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 to begin to judge, using different standards. To lean 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 the word of God and believe, not because of miracle.

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.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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