23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Bishop of Lake Charles
23rd Sunday Ordinary Time
September 6, 2009
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
“He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
I would like to point out two things in the Gospel today. First, what Jesus does to cure the “deaf man who had a speech impediment” (Mark 7:32). Unlike other occasions where Jesus will cure without any gesture being made, here there seems to be a ritual. Jesus takes “him off by himself away from the crowd”, puts “his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting” touches his tongue. He then looks up to heaven, groans, and says the word, “Ephphatha,” “Be opened” (Mark 7:33-34). What Jesus does almost seems “sacramental.” Jesus uses gestures and words to bring healing.
This same dynamic is preserved in the Sacraments of the Church. We call it “matter and form.” When I go to confession, for example, I bring to the Lord Jesus my “sickness,” namely the sins that I have committed and what it is I wish to have healed. I want to be freed. I show my desire for that freedom by expressing my sorrow and contrition. And the Lord who wills that I be healed and freed speaks through the priest and says, “You are forgiven. Go in peace.”
There is a new creation taking place. Healing restores the deaf man to a certain fullness. Every healing does. We become whole when we are healed. So too with the Sacraments of the Church. In Baptism we are brought into the life of the Trinity. In Penance we are reconciled to God and neighbor. In the Eucharist we participate in the Body and Blood of Christ and given a foretaste of the heavenly banquet of eternal life. In marriage the husband and wife live the union of Christ and His Church. In priesthood the priest is ordained to become “another Christ.” In confirmation we are anointed to live better our Christian calling. In the anointing of the sick we are healed in body and spirit, either to continue our life here on earth or face our eternal judgment. We can say that Jesus came to bring about a new creation, and His healing of the deaf man in today’s Gospel echoes what happened at the creation of the world. This brings me to my second point.
After the miraculous cure, through signs and words, the people say, “He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37). Those words take us back to the creation of the world, described in the first chapter of Genesis. After God has fashioned creation, it reads, “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good” (Genesis 1:31). Many commentators on this passage have seen a connection.
In creation God has brought order out of chaos. He has created a world that is in sync. It fits together, and it is beautiful. This order, that contributes to its beauty, reflects the good that God intended it to have. In effect, Jesus comes to restore man to God, and His works of healing give evidence to this restoration.
In reflecting on the miracles of healing the Gospel of St. Mark, Pope Benedict XVI writes the following: “In the miracles of healing performed by the Lord and by the Twelve, God displays his gracious power over the world. They are essentially ‘signs’ that point to God himself and serve to set man in motion towards God. Only becoming-one with God can be the true process of man’s healing” (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 176). Marveling at the cure Jesus has worked, the people are giving praise to God. They are “exceedingly astonished”, and we should be also. God has brought about a marvelous work in sending Jesus Christ to restore us to God.