23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
September 6, 2009 – Year B
Thus says the LORD: Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not! Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will 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.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.
Ps 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
R. (1b) Praise the Lord, my soul!
The God of Jacob keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
The LORD gives sight to the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
The fatherless and the widow the LORD sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes
comes into your assembly,
and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in,
and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes
and say, “Sit here, please, ”
while you say to the poor one, “Stand there, ” or “Sit at my feet, ”
have you not made distinctions among yourselves
and become judges with evil designs?
Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world
to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom
that he promised to those who love him?
Again Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!”- that is, “Be opened!” –
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
An African farmer had heard tales about other farmers who had made millions of dollars by discovering diamond mines. These tales so excited the farmer that he could hardly wait to sell his farm and go prospecting for diamonds himself.
So he sold the farm and spent the rest of his life wandering the African continent, searching unsuccessfully for the gleaming gems that brought such high prices on the markets of the world.
Finally, broke, worn out, and in a fit of despondency, he threw himself into a river and drowned.
Meanwhile, back at the farm, the man who had bought his farm happened to be crossing a small stream on the property one day when he saw something gleaming at the bottom of the stream. He picked it up. It was a sparkling stone – a good size stone – and, admiring it, he later put it on his fireplace mantel as an interesting curiosity.
Several weeks later, a visitor admired the stone, looked closely at it, hefted it in his hand and nearly fainted. He asked the farmer if he knew what he’d found. When the farmer said no, that he thought it was just a piece of crystal, the visitor told him he had found one of the largest diamonds ever discovered.
The farmer was astonished. He told the man that his creek was full of these brilliant stones, and his farmland was covered with them. Not all were as large, perhaps, as the one on his mantel, but they were sprinkled generously throughout his property.
Needless to say, the farm the first farmer had sold, so that he could search for a diamond mine, turned out to be the most productive diamond mine on the entire African continent.
The first farmer had owned, free and clear, acres of diamonds, but had sold them for practically nothing in order to look for them elsewhere.
The moral is clear: If the first farmer had only taken the time to study and prepare himself – to learn what diamonds looked like in their rough state – and, since he had already owned a piece of land, to thoroughly explore the property he had before looking elsewhere, his wildest dreams would have come true.
EACH OF US IS, AT THIS MOMENT, STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS OR HER OWN ACRE OF DIAMONDS.
If each of us will only have the wisdom and patience to begin by exploring ourselves, we will find that we contain all the riches necessary to be able to succeed in whatever endeavors to which we may set our minds and hearts.
As Jesus and His disciples come back southward, they find themselves once again within the region of Decapolis (Mark 7:31). The word “Decapolis” is a compound made from the joining of two Greek words.
(1) Deca is the word for “ten.”
(2) Polis is Greek for “city.”
This was the land of the ten cities. There were ten Gentile cities in this region (Damascus, Raphana, Hippos, Dion, Kanatha, Gadara, Scythopolis, Pella, Gerasa and Philadelphia). Because of the high percentage of Greek immigrants to these cities, they had formed a political league among themselves and had developed a tradition of self-government.
It was a land of heathen temples, or marble amphitheaters and of Greek culture and art.
Jesus had come to this area already. We saw in Mark 5 that Jesus had come here and had been confronted with a man who was possessed with a number of demons. He had cast the demons out of the man and had allowed them to enter a herd of pigs. The pigs had stampeded down the hillside and into the waters of the Sea of Galilee to drown.
The man, now healed, had wanted to follow Jesus. Instead, Jesus instructed him to go home and to tell everyone about what had happened to him.
Some time has now passed. Jesus has returned to the Decapolis. And it seems as though the man who had been healed had done his job. Everyone in the area has heard about Jesus. It is not long before a crowd gathers.
People never realized well that Jesus is the Son of God. They just admired him as a simple man doing extraordinary things. They were of course astonished seeing him perform wonderful things and were happy. That is why Jesus admonished the healed man not to tell to anyone who he is.
He has done all things well. That is the statement people made when Jesus finished healing the man. What a wonderful moment to all these people there to witness a miracle. But Jesus was aware that these people may be taken up by the miracles and not by his doctrine. That is why he said that this should not be reported to other people.
Why Jesus did not want people to speak about his miracle is a question that disturbs us. Maybe he wanted no popularity, he wanted people not to seek him only for miracles, and maybe he wanted all people to learn that the kingdom of God is not just healing and miracles.
Jesus takes the sick man away from the crowed signifies, that he had compassion on him and he wanted to keep him away from the noisy comments of the crowds. Then he gives him special attention, puts his fingers into his ears and spitting touched his tongue. Well, there was a need for a special treatment. We can just visualize the attitude of Jesus, totally into treating the sick person.
People were marveled at the works of Jesus and they went home saying that he did everything thing well. Of course Jesus did everything well because of this mission he came into this world. That is what Jesus wanted to work among people.
Now that they are alone and free from the distractions of the multitude, the Jewish stranger begins a series of pantomimes.
- He… put His fingers into his ears (7:33).
Jesus takes the deaf man and touches his ears, pointing out that He is aware of the hearing problem the man has and that He is going to do something about it.
- After spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva (7:33).
Notice that the words “with the saliva” are italicized in the English translation. This indicates that they are not a part of the Greek text. They were added by the translators. I do not think they should have been.
By spitting and then touching the man’s tongue, Jesus was letting him know that he intended to deal with his speech problem.
Why is Jesus doing this? Because He wants to create a measure of faith within the man before He heals him. Up to this point, the only people who have demonstrated any faith are those who brought the deaf-mute to Jesus. He has no faith of his own. And so, Jesus makes His intentions known to the man so that he can have his faith aroused.
- Looking up to heaven with a deep sigh (7:34).
The sigh and the looking up to heaven were also for the deaf man’s benefit. As he saw Jesus looking up to heaven, he would realize where the power for this miracle was coming from. As he saw Jesus breath a deep sigh, he would perhaps understand that Jesus is praying on his behalf.
The Greek word translated “sigh” is the aorist active indicative of stenazo. It is the same word that is translated “groan” in Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 5:2-3 and Hebrews 13:17.
Why did Jesus groan? I think that it was because He was touched by this man’s infirmity. The real importance of the incarnation is that God became flesh so that He could touch us and so that He could be touched by us. We do not pray to a God who is unable to identify with our problems. He has been touched by the same things that touch us.
- He said to him, “Ephatha!” that is, “Be opened!” (7:34).
This man had not been able to hear for a very long time. Suddenly as he looks into the eyes of Jesus, he hears His voice. This single Aramaic word is the first thing that he hears.
Moreover, his healing is immediate. He can hear what Jesus is saying to him and he can speak so that others can understand him. The use of the imperfect tense means that the man started speaking plainly and that he kept on speaking plainly. In fact, people couldn’t shut him up.
What we learn from this Gospel passage is Jesus’ concern for the least and the lost. Hence, we can always rely on God when we feel helpless, hopeless, and even deeply sinful. God is there to heal us and restore us to life. Jesus’ attitude towards the helpless is remarkable. We need to be true to our commitment as Christians in our charity. We need to do at least a good deed a day that would add up to our reserve in the Kingdom of God. Have a great weekend.