23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. September 6th 2015.
Is 35:4-7; James 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-37
Complete healing in Christ
What does a complete healing in Christ look like? How can we dispose ourselves for this type of healing that would lead us to exclaim like the astonished crowd in today’s Gospel, “He has done all things well?”
Today’s Gospel passage reflects the two ways in which Jesus offers us complete healing. First of all, Jesus offers us healing indirectly through others. The mute man is healed indirectly through the crowd who intercede with Jesus on his behalf because he could not speak his request, “And people brought to Him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged Him to lay His hands on Him.” Likewise it is the healing of this man that brings about the crowd’s deepened faith in Jesus and His extraordinary healing power, “They said, ‘He does all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” The man is healed through the concern of the crowd for him and the faith of the crowd is enkindled by the healing of the man. This is Jesus offering His healing to us indirectly through others.
Secondly, Jesus Christ offers us His healing directly through signs and words. He does not heal the mute man by simply laying His hands on him as the crowd requested but He begins His healing through a pretty strange ritual. He puts his finger in the man’s ears, spits, and touches his tongue before He groaned and said, “Ephphatha!” The deaf man, who cannot understand any other language than signs, does not understand what these ritual and signs are all about. But these are no empty rituals or signs and they have a healing effect on him, “Immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed and he spoke plainly.” What we have here is direct healing that Jesus offers us through signs and words.
Jesus offers us complete healing directly through words and sense perceptible signs called sacraments and He offers us healing through other people who come into our lives with their strengths and physical, spiritual, emotional needs. His healing touch is experienced directly through the sacraments, “And so in the sacraments Christ continues to “touch” us in order to heal us.” (CCC #1504) We also experience His healing touch through the people that He places in our lives at every moment.
In the First Reading, God’s promise to save His people in exile is expressed in terms of personal healing, “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared.” God began to fulfill this saving-healing prophecy indirectly through Cyrus, the Persian King, whom God used to liberate His people from bondage. But the prophecy also indicated that the Lord will personally come to save them, “Here is your God, He comes vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you.” This prophecy is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the God-man, who has come to save and heal us from the wounds of sin. The complete healing of God’s people is achieved indirectly through Cyrus and directly through the incarnation of the Word in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The mission of Christ is to save all of mankind, “The Son of man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”(Lk 19:10) This universal saving mission of Christ has grave implications for us too. Jesus directly touches and heals us through His words and sacraments and in return we experience His indirect healing through others to the extent that we too strive to become instruments of His indirect healing on others. This is the message that St. James preaches in the Second Reading. If we are going to expect complete healing, then we cannot show any partiality or bias in dealing with others because we now “adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” Just as God did not discriminate but chose “those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him,” we who have been touched by Christ cannot hope for the complete healing of the kingdom while we discriminate on whom we will love and how we will love them in their conditions.
Let us reflect on two decisions made by Pope Francis in the last few days. First of all, the Pope has granted all priests the authority to absolve a penitent from the sin of procured abortion during the upcoming extraordinary jubilee year of mercy beginning December 8th 2015. This has erroneously been presented by the mainstream media as making abortion more acceptable or a less grievous sin. Nothing could be further from the truth because many bishops have long ago granted this power to the priests in their dioceses. Why did the Pope make this decision? In his papal bull that announced the Jubilee year, he says, “This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched.” The Holy Father is inviting us all to turn with greater confidence to the sacrament of Reconciliation to experience the direct healing touch of Christ in this sacrament.
In the Pope’s second decision, he has asked every Catholic parish or religious community in Europe to respond to the migrant crisis by taking in refugee families that are fleeing from war-torn Middle East. We were all shocked to see dead bodies of children who drowned on their way to safe harbors in Europe. What does the Pope’s call to us mean? He is inviting us to experience the indirect healing of Christ through those that we are in need.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Good News is that God desires to heal us more than we desire to be healed. God’s desire to heal us has taken concrete expression in the Incarnation of the Word in Jesus Christ. Jesus has given us the sacraments and His word as a direct means of His healing touch in our lives. In divine providence we have abundant opportunities to receive His indirect healing through the many opportunities of those in our life and world who are in need physically, materially, psychologically, spiritually or emotionally, etc. In the poor, the abandoned, the infant in the womb, the sick, the elderly, the troubled and neglected, the downtrodden and persecuted, God is offering us indirect healing that complements the direct healing of His sacraments and His word. The temptation we face is to discriminate, picking and choosing whom we reach out to based on what we will get from them or based on what they have done for us in the past.
We encounter the divine physician in the Eucharist we celebrate today as in all other sacraments. He comes with healing power into our lives and He knows where we are hurting. Like the dumb and deaf man in the Gospel, we do not understand His signs and rituals completely but they are not empty rites but rites that are impregnated with the power of the Holy Spirit and His word. Let Christ touch us directly through the sacraments. Let Him touch us indirectly through others whomever they may be. Our healing will be so thorough and complete that we too will know that Our God is a Savior-Healer and indeed He does all things well.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!