Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

23rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: PROCLAIMING THE GOODNESS OF GOD

Mk 7: 31-37

 

OUR GOSPEL TODAY is about Jesus’ healing of the deaf man who had a speech impediment. This account demonstrates the will of God to heal people, as well as to make them whole. The bodily senses are that important in our day-to-day activities. Having defects in these senses can be difficult to carry. And we could imagine how difficult was the situation of the man mentioned in the gospel passage. He could not hear anything. And at the same time, he had problems with speaking. But Jesus came in order to heal him, and to make him whole again.

First of all, what makes the healing of the deaf man interesting is the way how he was healed by Jesus. There were actions involved on the process. Jesus goes into an elaborate ritual in seven acts: (1) He takes the man aside; (2) He puts his fingers into the man’s ears; (3) He spits; (4) He touches the man’s tongue; (5) He looks up to heaven; (6) He sighs; and lastly (7) He issues the healing command, ‘Ephphatha!

Biblical scholars explain that St Mark emphasized these actions as a way of saying to the readers that participation in these early liturgical ceremonies would experience healing. We have to take note that there is a little ritual in the rite of baptism (although it is often omitted) whose name and form is taken from today’s gospel: ‘The Ephphatha’. The celebrant touches the ears and then the lips of the baptized child, saying: ‘The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ear to receive his word and your mouth to proclaim his faith …’

In the first reading, Isaiah prophesied about the Messianic times, wherein “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.” And Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus is the Promised One who gives new sight, new hearing, and new lips.

Secondly, let us take a look at the response of the witnesses to the healing done by Jesus. The gospel says, Jesus “ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.”

It appears that for these people it is important to proclaim the wonders that God has done in their midst. After the deaf man has experienced this healing, nothing could stop him from proclaiming Jesus, even when Jesus himself would ask the witnesses to keep silent about it.

This gospel passage is not only a story about healing, but it is also a story about becoming missionaries. Deafness and muteness are obstacles for Christians to proclaim the Good News of Jesus. Deafness can also happen to us, as individuals and as church. That can be a reason why we do not fully understand the message of Jesus. And deafness can lead to muteness. If we have not heard or seen anything, then, naturally, we have nothing to say or proclaim. As individuals and as church we need to come to Jesus for healing. And this can happen here in the prayerful spirit of our Eucharistic celebration, as we open our hearts to God.

We need the gifts of new hearing and the gift of new speech. The gift of new hearing, on the one hand, allows us to hear the word of God in the eucharistic celebrations, or in the pronouncements from the leaders of the Church. The gift of new speech, on the other hand, allows us to praise God in prayer, to proclaim the truth, and to announce the good news of Jesus. AMEN.


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