Sunday, Sept. 9, is the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B). Mass Readings: Isaiah 35:4-7, Psalm 146:6-10, James 2:1-5, Mark 7:31-37.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we read the story of a deaf man. Because he couldn’t hear properly, he also couldn’t properly calibrate the way he spoke, and so he had a speech impediment and was hard to understand.
Anyone in his situation would find the two conditions painfully frustrating and embarrassing, and though most of us are blessed with good hearing and speech, we’ve all faced the awkwardness and frustration of not understanding others and of not being understood.
Fortunately, Jesus had compassion on the man and healed both his hearing and his speech impediment. This was one of the signs of the Christ, for Isaiah had prophesied that, in the Messiah’s day, the deaf would hear and the mute would speak. Not only that, the blind would see and the lame would regain their ability to walk — miracles that Jesus also performed.
The fact that Jesus did these miracles reveals his identity as the Messiah, the Savior that God had promised centuries beforehand. The miracles also reveal something else: God’s compassion for the disadvantaged.
God knows the pain and frustration of all who are disadvantaged — whether they are blind, deaf, mute, lame or anything else. This is why the Psalms say that God “secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free.”
God’s compassion extends to everyone, no matter what disadvantages they face. Thus he “raises up those who were bowed down” and “protects strangers” — those traveling in foreign lands, who face hostility and have no support network to sustain them. In the ancient world, many men died young, leaving their children and wives alone, but “the fatherless and the widow the Lord sustains.”
Few things are certain in life, and we must not presume that we will always have the advantages that we do now. Because we won’t. One day we all will face hardship — whether it’s due to the death of a loved one, an illness, an accident or a financial reversal. One day all of us will be disadvantaged in some way.
We must share God’s compassion for the disadvantaged, for one day all of us will need it ourselves. Among other things, this means that we must not show favoritism.
St. James warns us against giving preferential treatment to the rich and well-advantaged. In the first-century church, that might mean telling a rich, finely dressed man, “Sit here, please,” while telling a poor, shabbily dressed man, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet.”
By doing these things, we would set ourselves up as judges who look only at temporary, outward appearances — at fortunate or unfortunate circumstances that frequently are beyond the control of the person who experiences them. But God has compassion on everyone, regardless of their circumstances, and we need to show a corresponding, universal compassion on everyone.
After all, difficult days are coming our way. All of us will face hardship in the future. All of us will need to be shown compassion by others. And all of us will be grateful when we receive it. Let us show it to others today.
Jimmy Akin is the senior apologist at Catholic Answers,
a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine and a weekly guest on Catholic Answers Live. He blogs at NCRegister.com.