Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 5, 2021 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
 Washington, D.C.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

“Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the kingdom and cured disease among the people” (Alleluia refrain).

Jesus’ healing of the sick is a sign that the kingdom of God has arrived. In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah says: “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” (Is 35:4–6). Today’s responsorial psalm says: “The LORD gives sight to the blind; the LORD raises up those who were bowed down” (Ps 146:8).

When John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the Messiah, he replies: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear” (Mt 11:4–5).

The miracles performed by Jesus attest to the efficacy of his word. Jesus’ preaching is followed by powerful actions: the forgiveness of sins, the healing of the sick and deliverance from demons. Jesus creates a new order, where the yoke of darkness is destroyed by the power of God’s glory. The Gospel is truly “good news”!

Those who love Christ experience the power of God in their lives and become heirs of the kingdom. As Saint James says in the second reading, “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?” (Jas 2:5).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a deaf man who had a speech impediment: “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mk 7:37).

The healing of the senses has a particular relevance because it is through them that we perceive reality. The healing of hearing and sight also has very important spiritual significance. The healing of the senses is not only the healing of the exterior senses but also the interior senses. We all need such healing!

Jesus heals our interior hearing so that we can hear the Father’s voice. Spiritual deafness prevents us from hearing God’s voice in our hearts. The Lord is continually speaking to us but we cannot hear him.

Our healing occurs through our personal encounter with the Lord: “He took him off by himself away from the crowd” (Mk 7:33). Jesus imposes his hands on the deaf man and touches the ears and tongue of the afflicted one with his fingers. Our encounter with Christ is spiritual but also material, as it also requires matter. Christianity is the event of the Word made flesh. Our encounter with Christ passes through our encounter of a human reality. We encounter Christ when we encounter those whose lives have been transformed by their personal encounters with Jesus. We encounter Christ through the grace of the sacraments.

When Jesus opened the ears of the deaf man, the speech impediment was also removed: “And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly” (Mk 7:35). We can speak plainly about God when our hearing has been healed by the Lord. We bear witness to faith when we hear the Father’s voice. Christianity is not propaganda or proselytism. Christianity is to proclaim God’s voice, to bear witness that we are God’s children: “And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Mt 3:17).

May the Holy Spirit renew the grace of our personal encounter with Christ. May we continually rediscover the amazing grace of being beloved sons and daughters of God. May the Holy Spirit fill us with wonder for what we are and make us enthusiastic witnesses of God’s love.  Amen.