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Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time


healingA reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 35:4-7a)
 
“Thus says the Lord: 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.” This is a promise from the Lord that becomes very specific and includes assurances that “the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared,” “the tongue of the mute will sing.” Then, to top it off for people struggling in a parched desert, “the burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water.”
 
This is God giving new life to the people of Israel who have suffered so much. It is a messianic prophesy of a new kingdom, a new relationship between God and his people. However, there is untold new suffering, new trials to come for thousands of years. Yet, people have returned to Isaiah, and this passage in particular, to give them hope. We Christians believe that this promise has been fulfilled in Jesus and we live in that promise.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10)
 
“Praise the Lord, my soul.” How often do you say a prayer of praise to God? Most of our prayers are asking God for something or for forgiveness. Of course, those are necessary and often heartfelt prayers. But what about saying a prayer of praise that can be added to our prayer of thanksgiving or just stand alone in our moments of awe before our loving God?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint James
(Chapter 2:1-5)
 
Most of the early Christians were not rich, but a few were and apparently there were situations in which the relatively rich person was given the choice seat at the celebration, and the poor man was treated shabbily. James wanted to put an end to that.
 
“For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, 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,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs? … “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 loved him?”
 
There was a time in many Christian churches when rich people “bought” the best seats in the church and had them reserved each Sunday. I have never known that in any parish I have been in, but I suspect it still exists in some places. You never know if someone sitting next to you may be “poor in the world” but is rich in faith.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 7:31-37)
 
People at the time of Jesus suffered many afflictions for which there was no medical cure. They also lived in continual political and economic chaos, feeling powerless in the face of oppression from the Romans and from their own countrymen who had power over them in so many ways.
 
So you can imagine how popular Jesus was because of his many cures. “They were exceedingly astonished and they said, ‘He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” But this is only one instance of Jesus healing. We know of many occasions when he healed someone of illness or infirmity, raised the dead to life, and—most important—forgave people for their sins.
 
Jesus was a healer, unlike any before him, and he wants all of us his followers to be healers as well. What opportunities do you see in your life for healing someone? Perhaps it is an emotional or spiritual healing or maybe the healing of a relationship. How about the healing of your marriage or your family? That does not necessarily mean that something is badly broken but rather that there are wounds of one kind or another that need the healing mercy of Jesus.
 
And, what about you? Where and how do you need healing in your life? Is it the loss of a loved one, the loss of some part of yourself that does not work the way it used to, the loss of memory, or simply the loss of a joy that used to be there every day of your life but now comes and goes. What steps can you take to restore your joy? How can you pray to Jesus to be with you on your journey to healing and wholeness? Jesus offers us healing gifts every day of our lives, but sometimes we are too busy or tired or wounded to experience them. His healing touch doesn’t work like magic. He wasn’t a magician; he was a healer.
 
Let us pray for whatever healing we may need and be aware of the healing gifts we are offered—in prayer, in the sacraments, in the empathy of others.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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