A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah
When you are in a dire situation, you need a message of hope. Israel was almost always in some kind of danger, in this case attacks from the much more powerful Assyrians. Isaiah’s message from God is clear. “Fear not!” “Here is your God.”
Fear is one of the most destructive forces in our lives. Sometimes it is unwarranted fear that wells up from some dark place in us and takes over for a time, perhaps a long time. At other times it comes from a real concern about someone we love or something that is happening in our lives that threatens our well- being. Of course, we would like all fears to go away or at least leave us alone for a while. God’s message to us in all these situations is “Fear not” or “Be not afraid.” God says this to the Israelites over and over again through the prophets, and Jesus says it to his disciples. These words and their companion message—“I am with you”—are said more than any other expressions in the Bible. God wants to assure us, especially in our worst moments, that we are not alone.
“Praise the Lord, my soul.” This psalm is a litany of all the things God has done for his people, especially those most in need. It is a good psalm to pray in times of stress.
A reading from the Letter of James
There are many kinds of discrimination and injustice in our world, but the most prevalent is that against the poor, especially women and people of color. Pope Francis and many recent popes have talked about an “option for the poor.” This is one of the many places in the scriptures where this concept is found. “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom?” Our society certainly favors the rich and especially the super-rich. Jesus and of our Church call us to work for justice for the poor, especially those who are disabled, sick, or abandoned.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
Jesus was well versed in the Hebrew Scriptures and often referred to them. Here he is extending his healing ministry outside of Jewish territory into Gentile lands and cities. This cure evokes the reading we heard today from the prophet Isaiah. “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared.” Jesus fulfills this prophecy. The power of God is with him.
Even scholars who do not believe in the divinity of Jesus recognize that he was a remarkable healer. We may not be scholars, but with the eyes of faith we can recognize that his healing power can have come from only one source, God. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s presence and power. His purpose on earth is to announce the reign of God among the Jewish people and then reach out to all, even to non-believers.
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
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 Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.