Engaging the Gospel – Mark 7:31-37

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 7:31-37

By healing the deaf man, Jesus signifies that He is fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading: He has come for our salvation, not only at a specific moment in history, but for us and our age as well.

This “life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies,” remains in the Church, particularly “through the sacraments and in an altogether special way through the Eucharist” (Catechism 1509).

As Benedict XVI observes,

There is not only a physical deafness which largely cuts people off from social life; there is also a ‘hardness of hearing’ where God is concerned, and this is something from which we particularly suffer in our own time. Put simply, we are no longer able to hear God — there are too many different frequencies filling our ears. What is said about God strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited to our age.

Along with this hardness of hearing or outright deafness where God is concerned, we naturally lose our ability to speak with Him and to Him. And so we end up losing a decisive capacity for perception. We risk losing our inner senses…

…‘Ephphatha’ — ‘Be opened.’ The Evangelist has preserved for us the original Aramaic word which Jesus spoke, and thus he brings us back to that very moment. What happened then was unique, but it does not belong to a distant past: Jesus continues to do the same thing anew, even today. At our Baptism He touched each of us and said ‘Ephphatha’ – ‘Be opened’ — thus enabling us to hear God’s voice and to be able to talk to Him…

But we do appeal to the freedom of men and women to open their hearts to God, to seek Him, to hear His voice. As we gather here, let us here ask the Lord with all our hearts to speak anew his ‘Ephphatha,’ to heal our hardness of hearing for God’s presence, activity and word, and to give us sight and hearing.

Homily of September 10, 2006.

Question for reflection: How have I experienced an opening up to God?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 1:40-45

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 1:40-45

Christ graciously heals the leper, who then disobeys the Lord

The leper’s earnest prayer encourages us to pray with “filial boldness” for our needs (Catechism paragraph 2610).

But after Jesus graciously heals him, the leper fails to respond in kind, and disregards the Lord’s instruction to him. This prompts us to reflect upon how we receive the Lord’s gifts.

Are we truly “living in thanksgiving,” knowing that “everything we are and have comes from Him” (224), or do we thoughtlessly go our own way? Like the leper, we also have been healed, from the deadly spiritual sickness caused by our sins.

Jesus referred the leper to the Jewish priest: the Old Covenant priesthood prefigures the New Covenant priesthood, which Christ gave us as a gift to cleanse and shepherd us (1541).

Benedict XVI comments:

According to the ancient Jewish law…leprosy constituted a kind of religious and civil death, and its healing a kind of resurrection. It is possible to see leprosy as a symbol of sin, which is the true impurity of heart that can distance us from God.  It is not in fact the physical disease of leprosy that separates us from God as the ancient norms supposed but sin, spiritual and moral evil.

…The sins that we commit distance us from God and, if we do not humbly confess them, trusting in divine mercy, they will finally bring about the death of the soul…In the Sacrament of Penance, the Crucified and Risen Christ purifies us through His ministers with His infinite mercy, restores us to communion with the heavenly Father and with our brothers, and makes us a gift of His love, His joy and His peace.

Angelus of February 15, 2009

Question for reflection: How do I express my gratitude for God’s blessings?

Engaging the Gospel – Mark 1:29-39

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B): Gospel – Mark 1:29-39

The people throng to Jesus in search of healing

Do we sometimes wish that we had lived during Jesus’ time, and like the residents of Capernaum in Sunday’s Gospel, had been able to gather around the Lord? Yet Jesus is just as present, and accessible, to us as He was to the people 2,000 years ago.

He is here, right now, in our Church, and we too can experience His transforming touch, if we are open to Him. For this reason, we should look forward to Mass as our place of encounter with the Lord, and not view our Sunday attendance as an obligation we can do without. Most especially present in the Eucharist (Catechism paragraphs 1373-81), Christ is “at work in each of the sacraments,” where “He personally addresses” each one of us (1484).

Benedict XVI develops the Gospel theme:

Jesus’ entire mission is symbolically portrayed in this episode. Jesus, coming from the Father, visited peoples’ homes on our earth and found a humanity that was sick, sick with fever, the fever of ideologies, idolatry, forgetfulness of God.

The Lord gives us His hand, lifts us up and heals us. And He does so in all ages; He takes us by the hand with His Word…He takes us by the hand in the sacraments, He heals us from the fever of our passions and sins through absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He gives us the possibility to raise ourselves, to stand before God and before men and women.

And precisely with this content of the Sunday liturgy, the Lord comes to meet us, He takes us by the hand, raises us and heals us ever anew with the gift of His words, the gift of Himself.

Homily of February 5, 2006.

Question for reflection: What prompts me to seek Jesus?