Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

God has an incredible dream for each of us. The readings of this Sunday are about that dream and its fulfilment in Jesus Christ who uses just one word in Aramaic “Ephphatha” (be opened) to heal the deaf and dumb person. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah highlights the vision of the return of the Israelites from the Babylonian exile. This incredible vision is about what the Lord in his compassion will soon do for his people. Their broken hearts will be healed and their dignity as a nation restored. Isaiah uses the image of healing and restoration of all creation in God’s justice and care. Thus “streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.” The Gospel passage is clearly the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Christ: opening the ears of the deaf and loosening the tongues of the dumb.

Isaiah’s prophecy predicts happier and better times to come, when God will destroy all barriers: the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame leap like lambs, and the dumb will speak. While both Isaiah and the Gospel point to physical healing, the ailments listed are also symbolic of interior suffering, consisting often of blindness to the needs of the neighbor, the inability to hear God’s voice or to speak words of praise and compassion. While walking through the Ten Cities Region (Decapolis), people bring to Jesus a deaf and dumb person asking him to heal him. The point of the miracle becomes a metaphor for the healing of all God’s people without exception. The deaf and dumb person, like the people in the gospels who are brought, or who come to Jesus for healing, represents each one of us and poor suffering humanity as a whole. That image of Jesus standing alone with the person, holding his face between his hands to heal him, is an image of God embracing the whole of creation in his tender touch, gazing with profound compassion into the eyes of each of us, longing to heal us all of our deafness and our speech impediment.

We are therefore challenged to follow the same example. James in the Second Reading challenges us when he speaks with irony of people who welcome the well dressed with gold rings, while ignoring the poor man, who is only in the eyes of this world but rich before God who makes no distinctions.  On the contrary, God breaks all barriers and calls all to the universal table of fellowship of the kingdom.  The questions we need to ask are:  do we in our parish community have wounds of division that need to be healed?  Do we have members who feel excluded?  

Msgr. John S. Mbinda