The Bishops Homily – 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time 2018

23rd Sunday Ordinary Time
Cycle B | 09/09/18
Is. 35:4-7
James 2: 1-5
Mk. 7:31-37

INTRODUCTION: Our Gospel today from Mark 7 is about Jesus’ healing of a deaf with a speech impediment. In the Gospels Jesus is depicted as a healer, a physical healer. That is why people crowd to him. The Gospel is telling a real event but as St. Augustine says since Jesus is the Word-made-flesh every action of his is a also a word, meaning has a spiritual, symbolic meaning. Let us do a symbolic reflection of this Gospel.

(1) The Gospel begins with Jesus heading his way to the Decapolis, the Ten Cities along the Southeast side of the Sea of Galilee, where Jews lived with a very Greek style in orientation. They bring to him a deaf and dumb man. Deafness is a spiritual issue. In all of the Bible, we hear this metaphor that God speaks in creation, to the prophets. In the Psalms, we hear God’s word. In the presence of God’s word, we need to be hearers and listeners. What is our problem? Deafness! We do not hear! We do not listen.

“Speak, Lord, for your servant listens.” Paul reminds us, “Faith comes from hearing.” In Mathew, John the Baptist hears Jesus and follows him. That is the attitude of a hearer. Whom does this deafman stands for? All of us who hear God’s word! Listening to God’s word is like listening to a pitch with a certain frequency. You have to stay attune to it.

So it is with listening to God! How come we don’t hear it? There are so many competitors to God’s word: commercials, advertisements, social media, music that completes to our attention. More to it, we have become used to a culture of staying away from what may connect us to God: non-attendance at Mass, not belonging to any church or religion.

(2) What is the result of deafness? If you are not used to hearing sound, how can you reproduce it? You become dumb! You have a speech impediment. Maybe you can make some sound but you will be unable to speak clearly. How many Catholics can really speak the word of God with clarity and confidence? How many of us Catholics become tongue-tied when we are questioned by a convinced Evangelical. Can you answer convincingly? That is what happens when we do not attend to hearing God’s word. How can we listen to him more attentively?

(3) How did Jesus do it? First, he took away the deaf man away from the crowd? What a great move that is! We see this often in Mark’s. When Jesus heals the blind man, he tells him, “Don’t go back into the City.” So also here, his first move is to get him away from the crowd. Why can’t we hear? We spend our time more with the crowd. We have to be introduced to a new milieu, a place of silence and contemplation.

Jesus is speaking here of the Church. Think for a moment of the silence of a church we know in our neighborhood. Then, he put his finger into the man’s ear and spitting on the man’s tongue, he looks up to heaven and groans and says, ” Ephatah!” One of the few Aramaic word of Jesus retained in the Gospel. What is Jesus doing? He is doing the action of a known healer of his time as if setting up an electric current in the ear of the deaf plugging himself in through the Church and telling both his ear and his tongue: “Be open!”

CONCLUSION: We can’t speak to evangelize about Jesus because we don’t hear his voice in the Church, in worship, in the sacraments. Stay with this man Jesus and then you can speak.

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches