Meditation for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
(Is 35:4-7; James 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-37)

Affliction, sickness, infirmity, poverty, etc can set a man apart from among his fellows or make him feel abandoned by God. Fear, uncertainty, sadness, etc are often the immediate responses that such situations can arouse in someone. Isaiah speaks directly to the heart going through such affliction, “Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance…He will come and save you.” When He comes, the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped…and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy.

This prophecy was fulfilled in the Gospel as Jesus heals the man who was deaf and dumb. “And taking him aside from the multitude privately, He put his fingers into his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue.” The man’s affliction set him ‘apart’ from his community since he could not interact freely. But Jesus took him apart from the multitude—away from their general understanding of the sickness—and healed him with gestures that showed that He associated Himself with the man at the very point of affliction. So, being ‘apart’ from Jesus privately heals and reconciles us with God and others.

“And looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that, ‘Be opened.’” As in the sacrifice of the Cross, Jesus offered up the man’s pains, shame, isolation, poverty, fear, heartbreak, etc with a sigh that pierced heaven! This prayer cannot be disconnected from the prayer of ‘His Hour’, i.e. His agony in the garden, and His loud cry on the cross. And Jesus continues to set us apart to Himself privately and touch us with the merits of this saving sacrifice at our very point of affliction through the Eucharist.

Therefore, in our worship and Eucharistic celebration, we join our voices with the man that was thus touched and healed to sing joyful praises to God. Our Eucharist is a thanksgiving offering that the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled in us. Then, how can we begin to show partiality against the poor and afflicted in our church gatherings! This will make our worship hypocritical. Since Jesus takes us to Himself in our poverty and affliction, we too should have a preferential option for the poor, and through our charity and care, offer their pains in union with the sacrifice of Jesus. Let our eyes and ears be opened (Ephphatha) that we may see the afflictions around us, and hear the cries of the poor among us. Amen.

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi-Muwo, Ojo, Lagos.
Sunday, September 5th, 2021.

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