This week we celebrate the Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time. In the first reading we are encouraged by the prophet to not be afraid but to keep the eyes of our hearts focused on the glorious future before us. How well do I focus on God rather than on my fear? In the second reading, we are reminded by James that the promises of God are for rich and poor alike and we are challenged to respond to both the rich and the poor as brothers in Christ. How well do I relate to Christ who is present in the midst of the poor? In the Gospel Jesus shows us His power to open the ears of a deaf man. We, like the disciples of so long ago, also need the touch of Jesus on our ears that we may hear His voice whispering to us of the wonders of God’s love and prompting us to live in His ways. How well do I try to listen to the voice of the Spirit? How well do I block out the confusing noise of the world? Do I really want to do so?
First Reading: Isaiah 35:4-7a
4 Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
6 Then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the dumb will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
7 The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 35:4 These are God’s words to Joshua in Josh 1:6-7,9,18.
* The section beginning with “God will come” is similar to the language used for the coming of the Messiah in 62:11; Rev 22:12; 34:8.
* 35:5 Spiritual and physical healing are linked together as in the ministry of Jesus. This is the scripture quote with which Jesus answers the disciples of John. See Mat 11:5.
* 35:6 These are signs of the Messianic age Mat 12:22; Acts 3:7-8, 32:2; Exod 17:6; 2Kings 3:15-20.
Second Reading: James 2: 1-5
1 My brothers, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. 2 For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?
5 Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose 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?
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 2:1-13 is an expansion of the exhortation of 1:22.
* 2:1 Brothers is used 11 times in this letter. It is the common form of Christian address, borrowed from Jewish practice and indicates a serious brotherly concern ( 4 times it is used with “beloved”).
The great glory of the Lord in whom we believe and are united nullifies all ideas and pretensions of worldly rank or status that would lead to partiality in conduct.
* 2:2-4 is a vivid example of the condemned practice. The vividness is characteristic of the style of rhetoric called diatribe and does not necessarily indicate that he had an actual occurrence in mind.
The word translated as “assembly” in Greek is really the word, “synagogue”. This example of the Christian extension of a Jewish term is an indication of the Jewish roots of Christianity. James is unique in the New Testament in the use of “synagogue” for a Christian assembly.
Both the rich man and the poor man are envisioned as being strangers to the community so that status is read only from their appearance.
* 2:3 The rich man is being offered a seat of honor in the assembly. Although we don’t pay much attention to such things in modern American society, the protocol of seating was very important to the society of the first century Middle East. It was an extension of the social importance indicated by order of seating at a banquet table. Seating at the head table at formal banquets, such as wedding celebrations, is a remnant of such a system in today’s world.
Gospel Reading: Mark 7:31-37
31 Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. 32 And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; 34 then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) 35 And (immediately) the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. 36 He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. 37 They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and (the) mute speak.”
NOTES on Gospel:
* 7:31 They are entering into a largely Gentile area.
The route followed by Jesus went north from Tyre through Sidon and then southeast across the Leontes continuing south past Caesarea Philippi to the east of the Jordan and approached the Lake of Galilee on its east side within the territory of the Decopolis. The journey may have been meant by Mark as an anticipation of the Church’s mission to the Gentiles.
* 2:32 Use of singular “hand” in context of imposition of hands is unusual in Mark.
* 7:33 Jesus performs a ritual of healing away from the crowd.
* 7:34 The meaning here is straightforward. Jesus prayed and was moved to compassion for the man. It is not intended to be seen as part of a magical rite.
“Ephphatha” is followed by a gloss indicating the meaning of the Aramaic word which was probably, ‘eppatah.
* 7:35 The cure is described as immediate and complete. The man is described as speaking “properly”.
* 7:36 The command that they tell no one is part of Mark’s insistence that Jesus is more than a healer and that His real identity will only be known after the cross and Resurrection.
The word used is the same one used later for “proclaim” the Gospel.
Jesus is made known among the Gentiles as in 5:19-20.
* 7:37 The language used here is from Isa 35:5-6 which is a vision of Israel’s glorious future indicating that Israel’s future glory is already present in Jesus’ ministry. </font