The Lord Restores Our Hearing and Hope

User’s Guide to Sunday, Sept. 5

‘CHRIST HEALING THE BLIND MAN,’ EUSTACHE LE SUEUR, C. 1645
‘CHRIST HEALING THE BLIND MAN,’ EUSTACHE LE SUEUR, C. 1645 (photo: Public domain)

Sunday, Sept. 5, is the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: Isaiah 35:4-7a; Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37.

“He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37). The words of the people in the Gospel of Mark from this 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time describe all of the acts of the Lord. They tell of our God who encounters our weakness and frailty and responds with healing and love. In our own life experiences, we know that he continues to do so. 

The prophet Isaiah in the first reading (Isaiah 35:4-7a) tells of the times of the coming of the Messiah, when he will come “with vindication” and “divine recompense” in order to “save you” (Isaiah 35:4). They will know it is him when the eyes of the blind are opened and the ears of the deaf cleared. The lame will leap, and the mute will sing. We need not be frightened, for our God is coming. 

In the Gospel of Mark (7:31-37), the people bring a man to Jesus who is deaf and has a speech impediment. Jesus draws the man aside to be with him alone and then touches the man’s ears and puts his own spittle on the man’s tongue. The man is cured, able to hear and to speak plainly. While Jesus tells the people to not tell others what happened, they cannot help themselves. They remember the words of Isaiah: The Messiah would make the “deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mark 7:37). They are filled with hope and joy. 

The Lord did not come to just heal the people of his day, but he continues to pour out healing on all who believe in him. We hear of his miracles through the intercessions of saints — including those with causes for canonization — and perhaps we have witnessed in our own lives miraculous physical healings of our loved ones. While these physical healings are beautiful signs of God’s love for us, the healings that matter most are the deeper, spiritual ones. 

We are all spiritually blind, deaf, lame and mute. We do not always have the faith to see the Lord working in our lives. We are deaf to the urgings of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We limp along in our prayer lives, and we do not know the words to pray. Yet, when we take the time to go off alone with Jesus, in quiet prayer or in Eucharistic adoration, or encounter him in the sacraments, he opens the eyes of our hearts, he helps us to hear his desires for us, he teaches us the words to pray, and helps us leap toward him in love.
When we receive his healing love, we can pray the words of the responsorial Psalm, “Praise the Lord, my soul” (Psalm 146:1). We can recall how he set us free from sin at our baptism and continues to raise us up. And when we remember his healing for us, we can pass on his love to others. 

St. James in the second reading encourages the Church to not discriminate against the poor and prefer the rich when they gather for worship. He explains how God chose “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” (James 2:5). The poor deserve our love and care and solicitude. When we reach out to them in love, we are imitating the Lord, who reaches out to us in our spiritual poverty. Is there any one of us who is not poor in some way? Yet we have a Lord who comes for our vindication, who “raises up those who were bowed down” (Psalm 146:8). He has come to save us from our misery, to see with his eyes, and to love with his heart. Let us praise him, for he does all things well! 

‘True hope, the one that transcends all other hopes, is not for material things, but for God.’

We Cannot Live Without Hope

COMMENTARY: Despite all the problems the pandemic has brought into our lives, the present moment is nonetheless an opportunity for hope. And it may be encouraging to realize that our hope can be a blessing for others.

Oscar Wergeland, “Service in a German Village Church,” ca. 1880

This Sunday, I’ll Be Going to Church. Will You Join Me?

“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” [CCC 2181]