24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
- · Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
- · Quote of the Day
- · Today’s Gospel Reading
- · Gospel Reflection
- · Reflection Prayer
Please do not forget that this Tuesday, September 11th is “Patriot Day”. In the United States, Patriot Day occurs on this date each year, in memory of the 2,977 killed during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Initially, this day of remembrance was called the “Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001”. President George W. Bush signed the resolution into law on December 18, 2001 (as Public Law 107-89). It is however, a “discretionary” day of remembrance.
On this day, the President requests that the American flag be flown at half-staff at individual American homes, at the White House, and on all U.S. government buildings and establishments, home and abroad. The President also asks Americans to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time), the time the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
This past weekend, my family and I witnessed my oldest son’s “PIR” (Passing-In-Review), his graduation from the Naval Recruit Training Center at Great Lakes, Illinois. We were privileged to see his group receive an “Honor Flag”, plus, the rarely given “Hall of Fame” flag. Dan (my son) was lucky enough to be able to spend Friday afternoon and all day Saturday with us on his first liberty. We toured the Chicago area, and he was also able to spend quite a bit of time either texting, sleeping, or on Facebook – – something missing from his life for the past eight weeks.
“We said that faith heals our intellect and hope heals our memory. Similarly, we can say that love heals our will by ordering our interests and actions toward giving ourselves to God and others, for their own sake.” ~ Fr. Jonathan Morris, “God Wants You Happy“, Harper One
Today’s reflection: Jesus restores a man’s hearing and speech. What do you need “restored” by Christ?
(NAB 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.”
Whatever Jesus did, he ALWAYS did well. (I wonder if he was the Star Quarterback on His high school football team, and class valedictorian as well.) In essence – – AND in action – – Jesus always demonstrated a true love, a true beauty, and a true mercy of Father God in His actions.
In today’s reading, Jesus heals a deaf man who had a “speech impediment”. This is one of many stories about Jesus’ healing power. In today’s story, we find clues about our understanding of our “sacraments” (rites established by Jesus Christ Himself to bring grace to those participating in and receiving the benefit of the rite or sacrament). I am personally awed by the physical means – – to show the spiritual effect – – used by Jesus to heal the “deaf man”: the use of spittle and touch. Jewish people of Jesus’ time would never had touched another’s ears or tongue, thus becoming “unclean” and not able to go into the synagogue or Temple to pray until purified.
In this specific Gospel reading, we can see an image in the proclaiming of the good news, the Gospel, of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. The geographic references in this reading tells us that Jesus is purposely journeying through Gentile territory. Remember, Jesus had already previously visited this region, healing a person possessed by a demon at an earlier time in His public ministry. (Is today’s event an encore appearance?) After all, Jesus was already famous there, already a first century “idol” of sorts (posters on the kids’ walls and so on). In knowing of His earlier presence in this specific area, Jesus’ previous “healing” certainly explains why the deaf man was brought to Him for a cure.
To begin, let me give a little geography lesson on the area in today’s Gospel. I believe knowing the area, and its inhabitants, helps understand their motives – – and Jesus actions. The cities of Tyre and Sidon were famous areas in the ancient Near East. Both are now located in present day Lebanon, with Tyre 20 miles south of Sidon and 12 miles north of today’s present Israel-Lebanon border. Sadly, but not surprisingly, each of these cities today is just a shadow of their former selves.
Sidon, called “Saida” today (an Arabic word for “fishing”), was named after the firstborn son of Canaan (cf., Genesis 10:15) and was probably settled by his descendants as a port city from its very beginning. Sidon was built on a peninsula, with a nearby island sheltering its natural harbor from Mediterranean storms.
Twenty miles south of Sidon, in the middle of a coastal plain, Tyre (now called by the Arabic name, “Sour”), was constructed on a rock island just a few hundred yards out into the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, Tyre took its name from the physical makeup of this island. The word “Tyre” comes from the Semitic language, meaning “rock”. The rich, well-watered plain of Tyre became the fortified island’s primary source or food, water, wood, and other essentials needed for existence. Apparently this specific island was fortified first and called Tyre, while the coastal city directly opposite was settled later and also used this name as well.
The Decapolis (two Greek words meaning “ten” and “city”) was a group of ten cities in present-day Jordan, Syria, and Palestine. Decapolis was, at one time, on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire. The ten cities making up the area called “Decapolis”, were not an official grouping, or even an organized community. They were grouped together solely because of their similarities in language, culture, location, and politics. The Decapolis was a center of Greek and Roman culture in a region which was otherwise Semitic (Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Maltese, and Amharic). Interestingly however, each of these cities had a certain degree of autonomy and self-rule under the Roman Government.
The story in Mark’s Gospel preceding today’s reading sets the stage for today’s “healing” encounter (cf., Mark 7:25-30). In the preceding story, Jesus comes upon a Gentile, a Syrophoenician woman, who asks Him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. In this preceding story, Jesus engages the woman in a discourse about not feeding to dogs the food intended for children. In other words, why should He [Jesus] help her, a non-Jew? (Jesus believed His primary audience was His own people.) However, Jesus, impressed and moved by the woman’s great faith shown in her reply to Him: “even dogs eat the food that falls from the table”, Immediately heals her daughter!! The great, undaunted faith of this Roman-Greek “non-Jewish” woman actually compelled Jesus to respond to her plea for help. WOW! The power of faith and persistence!!
In today’s story, He shows His sincere compassion, kindness, and generosity for this man’s predicament, and heals him a dramatic manner!! Jesus takes the deaf man aside privately, no doubt to remove him from the embarrassment of being exposed to a noisy crowd of staring people.
Jesus then puts His fingers into the man’s ears (WHAT??); and He touches the man’s tongue with His own “spittle” (Double WHAT??). He carried out these actions in order to physically identify with this man’s infirmity, and to awaken the man’s faith already within him. With a simple command, “Ephphatha”, the afflicted man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he could now speak plainly, perhaps for the very first time in his life.
“The Spirit is called the finger of God. When the Lord puts His fingers into the ears of the deaf mute, he was opening the soul of man to faith through the gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Unknown source to this author)
Luke, in his Gospel, also mentions this same “finger of God”:
“It is by the finger of God that [Jesus] drive out demons” (Luke 11:20).
There is an irony in the story of the healing Mark tells in today’s reading. Jesus gives the man the gift of speech, but then tells him not to use it. Jesus instructs the “cured” man not to spread the good news of his cure at the hands of His healing power, a strong evidence of His identity and verification as the true Savior Messiah. Jesus’ instruction of silence is a recurring theme in Mark’s Gospel; some bible scholars today have called this Counsel of Jesus (“Don’t publicize this!”) as the “messianic secret”.
Interestingly though, Mark even goes so far as to say that when the “cured” man and others witnessing his cure were told to stop talking about the man’s cure, “the more they proclaimed it”. The same verb used by Mark for “proclaim” “eipwsin” (to speak or to say), in relation to the miracles of Jesus, is used in his Gospel three other times:
“After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God” (Mark 1:14);
“But the gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mark 13:10);
“Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).
Wow!! For me, what was subjectively implied in the actions of the crowd of today’s reading is their recognition of the divine power of effecting miraculous cures (prophesized by Isaiah – in todayy’s first reading), and revealing the saving mission of Jesus Christ.
In Summary, Mark shows that Jesus’ own mission pronounced and verified the early Church’s mission to both the Jewish and the Gentile nations – – a “universal” (Catholic) mission. This mission to the Gentiles was a significant and unique issue for the early Christian community. However, they came to realize, through such teachings and writings as in today’s Gospel, that the good news of Jesus truly did take root, and quickly spread, among the Gentiles as well as the Jews.
Jesus uses His “actions” to show the spiritual aspect of His healings. His actions ARE our present day “Sacraments”. (STOP – – Just dwell on this last sentence for a short time. It is a powerfully revealing point of fact.) Still today, the Catholic Church continues to participate in, and celebrate, these “actions” as our “Sacraments” using physical means. In the Sacrament of Baptism, water and oil are used to show the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. In the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, we are anointed with holy oil on the forehead and the hands. In the Holy Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ (by transubstantiation). Catholics are truly a “sacramental” people, believing God’s graces are imparted to us through these “actions” as physical signs and rites.
In today’s Gospel reading, the people’s response to this “healing” miracle truly testified to Jesus’ great and loving care for ALL others – Jewish and Gentile alike. Jesus “did all things well”, and will continue to do ALL things well through His family and their special “actions”- – FOREVER!! There is NO problem or burden too much for Jesus’ careful consideration. He treats each of us with kindness and compassion, and calls each of us – – individually and personally – – to treat one another as He Himself does for us:
“I [Jesus] give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
The Holy Spirit dwelling within us enables us, giving us the ability to love, AS Jesus loves. So, love others, treating them with love and civility – – especially those hard to love – – as Jesus did Himself, and as He shows us how to do through His loving actions.
In Conclusion, today’s Gospel invites us to consider how we witness to the healing presence of Jesus Christ in OUR care for, and ministry to, those who are sick. In today’s reading, we notice that the deaf man is brought to Jesus for healing by his friends. They beg Jesus to “lay his hands” on this deaf man, healing him. Jesus’ healing power is shown in His opening of the man’s ears and the restoring of his speech.
When family members care for one who is sick, they also bring Christ’s healing presence with and through them. When we pray for those who are ill, we are asking God to show His healing power though are words and actions. And, when health is restored, we share that “good news” with others.
So, recall a time when a family member or close friend was ill, and recall the steps taken to help restore this person to good health. Think about how it feels to care for a person who is ill, and also about how it feels to BE the sick person receiving care. In today’s Gospel, Jesus healed a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment; now notice how the “cured man” and his friends could not honor Jesus’ request to keep quiet about His power to heal. They had so much praise and thanks, they COULD NOT keep quiet. We also should not keep quiet, but continue to celebrate Jesus’ healing presence in our lives by giving praise and thanks to Him for His gift of healing and health to us and others. On a daily basis, let us all publically and privately thank Jesus for our gifts of health and healing – – even when our health may be not so great:
“In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 18) .
So, pray for those who are sick and bed-ridden, ending each prayer with “Jesus, heal us” – – and, “Thank You”.
“A PRAYER FOR HEALING”
“Lord, You invite all who are burdened to come to you. Allow Your healing Hand to heal me. Touch my soul with Your compassion for others; touch my heart with Your courage and infinite Love for all; touch my mind with Your Wisdom, and may my mouth always proclaim Your praise. Teach me to reach out to You in all my needs, and help me to lead others to You by my example.
Most loving Heart of Jesus, bring me health in body and spirit that I may serve You with all my strength. Touch gently this life which you have created, now and forever. Amen.”