SUNDAY, TWENTY THIRD WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Is 35: 4-7; Ps 146: 6-10; Jas 2: 1-5; Mk 7: 31-37
FAITH IN GOD AND IN HIS TIMING
“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven” (Eccl 3:1). Christian Spirituality places a special emphasis on God’s ordained time. God has a plan for each one of us and knows the best time for its fulfilment. The answer to our prayers, therefore, is not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. More often than not, it is ‘wait’.
Waiting is firstly an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty over us, a sign of our trust and surrender to his plan. It is also a time of preparation, purification, vigilance and hope in the expectation of what God is to bring about in our life. The exodus of the Israelites through the desert for forty long years was such a phase of waiting, a purification of the hearts of the people that had undergone corruption in Egypt. Only after this purification, when they were spiritually ready to receive the gifts of God, were they allowed to enter the Promised Land. Had they entered it earlier they would not have valued it.
James, in today’s second reading, shows this very state of corruption in our lives. We are often prejudiced, judgemental, intolerant, insincere, contemptuous and vain. James presents how such behaviours and attitudes are not consistent with the authentic Christian faith as they go contrary to the teachings of Christ. Jesus himself said, “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them underfoot and turn and maul you.” (Mt 7:6). Hence, the need for repentance and purification.
But this journey of purification is not an easy one and can take very long. Perseverance becomes a challenge and often we lose courage. Waiting can make us weary, tired, afraid, discouraged, and despondent. There is a danger of losing confidence in God and turning away from him by trusting in our own counsel. The Israelites in exile also experienced this discouragement. It was at such a time that God, through Isaiah, extended an extraordinary promise: God would personally come, save them, and destroy their oppressors. They would then witness wonderful things in their midst. The blind, the deaf, the dumb would all be healed. In the barrenness of their lives, springs of water would appear and make their lives fruitful. Until then, they were not to allow discouragement and fear to overwhelm them. The Lord keeps faith forever, as the responsorial psalm proclaims, and would uphold them in their trials.
The Gospel narrates the fulfilment of this promise. The man brought for healing was either born deaf or became so on account of some illness while still an infant. Since such people cannot hear other people speaking, they never learn to speak. Although not explicitly mentioned, we can infer that he had been suffering for a long time. His suffering was physical, psychological and social: the loneliness of being different, anger and frustration at being mocked, a feeling of being lost, useless and a burden to others. In addition, there is also the possibility that his impairment was considered as divine punishment for some sin. The painful time of suffering was his time of purification. In this condition enters Jesus, the Lord who, as the Psalm exclaims, loves, protects, upholds and raises up! With tender care, we see Jesus healing his deafness and muteness and the man experiencing the fulfilment of the promises God made through Isaiah.
The book of Genesis tells us that God created man on the sixth day, after he had created everything else. He was preparing the world for him. When all was perfect and favourable for man, God created him and looked at his creation and exclaimed, “It is very good” (Gen 1:31). In the work of re-creation there is no external preparation, but an internal one. Jesus not only healed the man physically but also brought healing and salvation to his soul. When he had finished his miracle, we hear an echo of the same words proclaimed at the end of the first creation, but this time from his creatures, “He has done all things well!” On our part we need to wait patiently
Response: My soul, give praise to the Lord.
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