Refection for Sunday September 6 – Sr. Barbara Moore, RSM
Isaiah 35: 4-7a, Mark 7: 31-37
The prophet Isaiah hundreds of years, before the birth of Jesus Christ, describes the ancient Israelites’ understanding of their God.
Isaiah in all its beauty and compassion might surprise some Christian listeners who may tend to see the God of the Old Testament as a harsh judge.
We often hear that, don’t we? “The Old Testament is a book of laws and judgments” and “the New Testament is a book of love”.
But our Old Testament reading today questions that conclusion with God’s words: “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!”
“The eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf with be cleared.”
Here we have a God who strengthens the frightened and desires wholeness for the suffering. “The lame will leap like a stag.”
A God who brings new life and new beginnings portrayed through the metaphors of “waters busting forth in the desert and burning sand becoming pools…of water.”
This is the God Jesus Christ learned about at Mary’s knee and from the teachings of the Rabbis. This is the God Jesus came to reveal and who is evident in this miracle in Mark’s Gospel.
First let us take a deeper look into the Gospel, and then answer a question for all of us. “What does it mean for us these days?”
The region through which Jesus is traveling is largely gentile. This in itself, places him in towns and communities that were avoided by Jews. Communities of outsiders and “less than” in the eyes of many. A man was brought to Jesus with two serious problems: lack of hearing and speech problems.
This encounter with him may for many, have surfaced old fears about purity, and the cause of illness. And to top it off, he may very well have been a gentile.
These concerns didn’t seem to bother the people who cared about him, and they “begged” Jesus to lay hands on him. Again, the role of touch carries its own cultural concerns.
The miracle happens and the God of Isaiah, is now working through the compassion and touch of Jesus Christ.
“The ears of the deaf will be cleared and the tongue of the mute will sing.”
Have you ever wondered what happened to the healed man? To the crowd who witnessed it? To Jesus’ disciples who must have also been astonished?
Here in this story, we discover a compassionate Jesus who responds to another’s needs and to a community request. A Jesus free enough to step into the world of someone different from his himself. A Jesus who rises above culture and long held barriers to meet the needs of another.
Is this the Jesus we have come to know, preach about, and present to our listeners, many of whom face struggles like the poor fellow in our text?
For people are yearning to “hear” this message and long that our “speech” reveal it to them.
Or do we, in our world today, preach a Jesus who is trapped by our culture and custom and who is boxed into our limited theological views?
There also is another aspect to this story. This July we celebrated and remembered the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That happened 25 years ago.
In many ways, it has done for our contemporary society what Jesus’ actions did in this gospel. Those of us of a certain age remember the myths and treatments of the past, often clouded by misunderstanding and lack of knowledge.
Behaviors that hid our brothers and sisters from view and care, and often covered them with shame and embarrassment. Experiences that must have also burdened our deaf man with a speech problem.
Enforcement of this law opened doors and life for so many and offered them community, healing and acceptance similar to the experiences of our deaf man with a speech impediment.
There are so many men, women and children in need of our care, interest and action. The deaf man in the Gospel depended on the “people who brought” him to Jesus. Their actions brought different cultures and customs together in order to meet a need.
How well do we do that?
How well do our communities of faith make those linkages and through our lives bring others to Jesus?
How well do we bridge differences among us for the sake of the gospel?
Jesus used a phrase today. “Be opened.”
May that be our desire as we live the Gospel!
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