This Sunday is the twenty-third Sunday in ordinary time. The readings invite us to become humble instruments of healing in Jesus’ hands by giving voice to the voiceless and by providing our caring love to the needy and the marginalized in our society. The readings also invite us to open our ears to hear the word of God and to let our tongues be loosened by the Holy Spirit to convey the Good News of God’s love and salvation to others.
The first reading, taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah, describes the return of the Chosen people to their homeland after decades of exile in Babylon. Upon their arrival they encountered many hardships. The prophet tells the people to be strong and fear not and reminds them that when God leads his people home, He will work miracles on behalf of those who need it most. This demonstrates God’s care for His people. Through Isaiah, God assures the Israelites that He blesses their return, and that they should be confident and not fearful. The life-giving streams of water bursting forth in the desert symbolize whatever is needed to achieve peace and fullness of life. This prophecy gives the Israelites the assurance that God will continue to save His people from their enemies, will open their eyes to the reality of what He is providing for them and will open their ears to what He has to tell them through His prophets.
The second reading from the Book of James is a pastoral letter, in which James points out to the members of the Church that they should show no partiality. They must treat others, whether they are rich or poor, with respect. The poor man, James says, is poor in the eyes of the world, but rich in Faith because he recognizes his dependence on God for everything and acknowledges that dependence in the way he lives and acts. James insists that Christians “should show no partiality.” In a society like ours, which values people who have great monetary wealth, great power or celebrity status, James admonishes against such attitudes. He calls us to show respect to everyone we encounter, irrespective of their social or economic status, and treating everyone as a child of God.
In the Gospel Jesus heals a man with a speech impediment. The healing fulfilled Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy, “The eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” The crowd’s acclamation (He has done all things well) shows that the crowd recognized the fulfillment of this prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah. What we see is not simply the healing of a physical defect, but a concrete sign of the transforming power of God’s Love and the fulfillment of God’s plan. The power of God’s Love is working in our lives to transform sorrow into joy, sickness into health, death into life.
In order to experience God’s love and proclaim the Good News, we need to be transformed. The miracle of the healing of the deaf man is not only about the physical healing of a person who was deaf and dumb, but it also refers the opening of a person’s ears so that he may hear the word of God and the loosening of his tongue so that he may speak his profession of Faith in Jesus. The miracle has great relevance to us, because a person can have perfect hearing, and yet not hear the word of God, have perfect speech, and yet be unable to make an act of faith. We are reminded that Jesus has the power to heal the spiritual deafness caused by our sin and hearts that have become hardened by a refusal to hear and do His will. Today, Jesus says to us as He said to the deaf and dumb man: “Ephphatha”—be opened.
Well, I am pleased to give you an update on our roofing project. The work on the roof and air conditioning is now in its final stages. Our church looks so beautiful internally and externally. I thank God and you all for being so generous and also for your words of appreciation and encouragement. I also thank the members of the roofing and fund-raising committees for their hard work. They put in so much time and effort into the project. We wanted to complete the work before school reopened, but we were delayed a bit because the air-conditioning company had to wait for parts. I will talk to you all in greater detail about this issue at some point during Mass.
At the last meeting, the fund-raising committee suggested that we should bless the roof and have a parish–wide celebration in the hall. Because this was such a massive but necessary project, we should celebrate. We will bless the roof on Sunday, September 23rd, immediately after the morning Masses followed by breakfast in the hall. Please mark your calendar; you will hear more in the coming weeks.