B Cycle – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 18

Mk. 7: 31-37

 There is an interesting twist in today’s healing of the man who could not speak or hear.  Some people brought him to Jesus and begged Jesus to lay his hands on him and heal him.  I can imagine a parent, a brother or sister, close friend or even someone who had heard about Jesus and was curious being among those who could have brought this man to Jesus.  What I find interesting is Jesus takes the man away from the crowd, off by himself and lays hands on him and heals him.

Interesting for two reasons, first why the desire for this miracle to be done in secrecy when other miracles were blatantly in your face see the power of God at work miracles.  Lazarus after four days in the tomb come forth was an in the open display of God’s power.  The multiplication of the loaves and fish was a deliberate testing of the willingness of the disciples’ trust to do the impossible and that is feed the thousands themselves.

The second reason is before Jesus touched him he raised his eyes to heaven.  We have heard of his doing this before.  He raised his eyes to heaven before he commanded Lazarus to come forth and he raised his eyes to heaven before he gave the loaves and fish to the disciples to distribute to the multitude.

I believe both of those things are part of the revelation of Jesus was giving us about God and about ourselves.  If you think about the miracles Jesus performed there is no question of their impact on the Pharisees.  To say they were upset by his miracles does not adequately state how angry and upset they really were.  They viewed his actions such as his forgiving sins and his healing a paralytic on the Sabbath for this was blasphemy and a serious violation of the Jewish laws.   They even suggested he healed because his power came from the devil.  They wanted him dead.

So that begs a question from us, why was the purpose of his healing anyone.  I believe we have been programmed to think he did so because it confirmed his divinity as the Son of God.  If this was the reason, then it implies that his healing had nothing to do with the people he healed (even his close friend Lazarus).  It was all about proving who he was, and those healed were chosen to make a point.  However, today’s healing miracle should give us the real reason Jesus healed – to show us the nature of God.  Not who Jesus was but who God is.

Why does this miracle say this to us? The fact Jesus takes the man away from everyone, off by himself and heals him tells us it is not about those watching but it is about the man himself.  Another fact is why tell him not to tell anyone if he wants the multitude to know who he is.  Because it was not about Jesus, but it was all about the man himself.  How could he not tell anyone about it?  He could not speak before and now he can; he could not hear before and now he could.  How could he hold back on proclaiming the glory, majesty and power of God?  This miracle shows us the compassion of God, the mercy of God and how God always hears our cry for his hand to touch us.

Remember the transfiguration scene when God tells the disciples “this is my beloved Son, listen to him.”  Listening involves more than our ears for we also watch body language, we are tuned into voice inflection and tone of the words spoken.  Jesus raises his eyes to heaven and groans.  Why did he do this?  I believe it has to do with something the Holy Spirit reveals to Paul in his letter to the Philippians. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although he existed in the form of God he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phl. 2: 5-6).  We also hear Paul telling us the Holy Spirit groans within us as we pray.

Could all this be about that Spirit which was at work within Jesus at his baptism moving Jesus to look to the Father and call on God’s power to be at work at that moment?  Just as Peter said to the lame man, I have nothing but in the name of Jesus walk.  Jesus tapping into the power of God so that man’s healing pointed not only to his own divinity and to authority given to him by God.  Jesus himself speaks of the authority given to him by the Father so everything Jesus did is done because God wants it done.

So, what can we take away from this gospel today.  What can we put in to touch those who need to see the compassion and the love of God?  I believe there are several things we can incorporate into our lives. First, we can go to those places where we can in private pray with and offer God’s healing touch to people in hospitals, those lonely in their homes, those in nursing homes where no one visits. We can form prayer teams to pray with the sick of our parishes each week after each mass.  We can invite them to join us in prayer in our churches and chapels as they sit empty during the day.

We can go to those places like Jesus did in this gospel where no one would dare go. He goes through the region of Sidon to the District of Decapolis – both of which was pagan country.   We need to go where the pagans live, to the sinners and give witness to the power of God to give them what they seek as he did the woman at the well.  We need to offer those doubters among us who are seeking righteousness but are blind to the very presence of Jesus who is reaching out to them.  Jesus is alive and well living among us and we are too often fixed as the Pharisees were on our own interpretation of how God should act or who he can be in our lives.

This gospel is given for us who have been touched by the healing gift of grace by faith to speak about the wonders of our God and like the man healed become excited, outspoken witnesses of the truth of God’s love and compassion.  For we do have a God who heals and loves and forgives and offers mercy to all who call upon his name.

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