Homily of 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.


1st Reading: Isaiah 35: 4-7; 2nd Reading: James 2:1-5; Gospel: Mark 7:31-37

In our contemporary society, some of the horrendous and precarious situations (insecurity, injustice, crime, delinquency, poverty, inflation, wickedness, etc.) encumbering us, mostly occur as a result of our insensitivity and deafness to the truth or common good. Unfortunately, many people are tired of listening to sound doctrine (truth). Some intentionally close their ears from listening to God’s Word not to talking of proclaiming it, while others are too shy or nonchalant to evangelize, or to speak against societal ills. Also, many who are at the helm of affairs (civil & religious) intentionally close their eyes and ears to the sufferings of their subjects (proletariat), especially the poor (anawims).

Sequel to this, evil prevails unabatedly, and our society continues to swim in the ocean of socio-economic, cultural and political quagmires. Due to the prevalence of all these overwhelming debacles, many people, especially Christians are dismayed, and beginning to doubt the efficacy of God’s word or His presence in our society.

In the FIRST READING, seeing the precarious situation of the Israelites, God made a promise through prophet Isaiah that He will come at the appointed time (messianic era) to avenge the cause of the poor, and free them from that which oppresses them or hinders their fruitfulness. His coming will be victory over all forms of maladies (physical or spiritual), slavery and inhuman situations.

Fortunately, today’s GOSPEL brings to limelight the fulfillment of this messianic prophecy, where Jesus Christ, out of compassion, healed a man who had suffered serious speech and hearing impediments, which subjected him to cultural stigmatization, social discrimination, and psychological trauma; thereby limiting his association and communication with others in the society. Meanwhile, this man represents those whose ears or hearts are closed, and cannot listen to the gospel of Christ or proclaim His wondrous deeds with their mouths; and also those who are insensitive to the plights of people around them.

Although Christ did heal the deaf and dumb, blind and lame physically, however, there is more implied here than mere bodily cures; which are signs of the spiritual restoration. Moreover, this restoration is being ratified during our baptism, when the priest touches our ears and mouth by saying: ”The Lord Jesus Christ made the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak. May He (soon) touch your ears to receive His word, and your mouth to proclaim His faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.” This sacramental or spiritual gesture empowers us to listen and be illumined by the power of God’s word, and thus, proclaim it to all nations.

However, it is not only having the ability to hear and preach God’s Words, but to become Christ’s instruments of healing and restoration in our society: With our eyes, we see the challenges and impediments of our neighbors; with our ears we listen to their problems; with our legs we reach out to the poor (physical, spiritual & psychological), and with our mouths we speak words of consolation and encouragement for the voiceless in our society. For God cannot come down physically to solve human problems, rather through the Holy Spirit, He uses human persons (us) to communicate or reach out.

Furthermore, one of the ways we mediate God’s creative power to others is by listening attentively to them without discrimination. St. James avers this in the SECOND READING, that fraternal charity can make no distinction of persons. Our ability to give listening ear to people is more important than what we speak or do for them. For many people are looking for whom to share their problems with; since problem shared is half solved. Hence, that act of listening to people in a non-judgmental manner, and giving everybody (both rich and poor) equal treatment, can be a powerful life-giving spirit to them.

Regrettably, there are people, mostly Christians who because of their worldly wealth or positions expect and demand special respect for themselves. Even some of our religious leaders, discriminatorily marginalize and oppress the poor, and give special honor to the rich because of the fat envelopes they would gain from them. But according to St. James, Christians who give special honour to such persons are already passing judgement with evil thoughts, and thereby usurping God’s right.  For the earthly wealth or position are no criterion for distinction in the Christian community, since all are equal before God (Gal. 3:28).

Finally, as Christians, we are called to be God’s instruments of healing and restoration in our society. There should not be any form of social discrimination or cultural stigmatization among us. For God does not discriminate (Rom. 10:12). As a matter of fact, He even shows preference for those that are poor in worldly goods, but are rich spiritually. Therefore, let us be sensitive to the challenges of those around us, especially the poor, so that they may experience God’s healing touch through our relationship with them.

Therefore, I pray that you may be healed from every maladies of spiritual deafness and dumbness through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

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