Deacon Steven Johnson’s Homily – September 5, 2021
Homily for the 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Sunday, 9-5-21, Year B
Readings: Is 35:4-7a, R Psalm 146, Jas 2:1-5, Gospel Mk 7:31-37
Theme: The Healing Hand
“Say to those who are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, He comes with vindication, with divine recompense He comes to save you.”
In the time near the end of the exile of the Jews in Babylon, around 538 BC, these are powerful words from Second Isaiah. The Jews are preparing to return back to the land of Israel. It is a scary time. They have been living for almost 50 years in Babylon and have made a life there, one that is not perfect, but nonetheless a life. Now they are about to return to their ancestral home, and they have no idea what awaits them there.
God punished the Jewish people with tough love by exiling them to Babylon. It is kind of like a child who is sent to his room after being naughty. Finally, after the appropriate amount of time, God opens the door to the room where the Jews are exiled and lets them return to the family, knowing they have repented and understood the wrongs of their actions.
Not only does God open the door to let them back into a life of freedom with Him, He does it with love, guidance and nurturing words of health, beauty and contentment. As the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God.”
Isaiah reminds the Jews of the living God, the one who led their ancestors out of Egypt into the land of milk and honey with mighty signs and deeds. He comforts them with soothing words that once again, the God of their fathers will walk with them and protect them on their journey.
Isaiah goes as far as to say that God even comes with divine recompense to save them. Recompense is defined as “giving something to by way of compensation (as for a service rendered).” 1 Why would God pay the Jews anything for the way they had treated Him in the past, the very reason they were exiled to Babylon in the first place? Because God is love and He will give anything, even His only Son, to have just one person’s love returned to Him. He pays them a divine recompense because He loves them and hears their cry of repentance. We can take comfort in this because we know God will hear us, too.
Isaiah wants the Jewish people to know that there is a brighter, more glorious future awaiting them in their homeland and the great city of Jerusalem.
St. Mark is saying a very similar thing in relating the story of healing a deaf man with a speech impediment. Mark writes to non-Jewish Christians (Gentiles) who are trying to understand the Jewish traditions and how that relates to Christ as human and divine in a time of persecution by the Romans.
St. Mark purposely wants the setting to be one of a Gentile nature. Tyre, Sidon, and the district of the Decapolis were pagan Gentile territories, and thus the man being healed by Jesus is most likely a pagan. Others who have faith in Jesus bring the deaf man to Him for healing. In other words, the deaf man represents you and me. Those who brought him to Jesus represent the faithful holy people of God who help us along our way.
We also know that Mark wrote his Gospel with the intent of having a “hidden messiah” whose final act brings eternal life to all. Mark wanted to be sure his readers understood that Christ did not want to reveal Himself until He gave the ultimate sacrifice on the cross; so that at that moment, all of Christ’s teachings, healings, and miracles of His three years of ministry would suddenly come together and make sense as in an epiphany. Christ is the Messiah promised to the Jews from of old. He is God Himself.
In Mark’s Gospel, the miracles Jesus works are signposts leading the people to a brighter more glorious future awaiting them in the homeland of heaven and the city of Zion. This is only made possible through a crescendo of events and miracles that ends in a glorious explosion of love for all through His suffering, death, and resurrection.
So, you are probably saying to yourself, “What does this all mean for me? How am I like the deaf and mute man whom Jesus heals? What can I take away from these readings today?”
What this means for us is that we must believe in the healing hand of God and that He watches over us and guides us. He heals our contrite heart through penance and reconciliation and helps us to hear and speak His truth to others with love.
We are like the deaf and mute man because we, too, can be deaf to God’s words and silent when the time calls for us to proclaim Him loudly.
We can take away from today’s readings the fact that God calls all of us out of our room of exile so we can be healed and cured of our obstinance and complacency. We must also recognize others who may be deaf and mute to God’s presence and bring them to Jesus for healing. Do you know someone who has never been exposed to God’s mercy and love through His Son Jesus? Would you consider introducing that person to Jesus so they may be healed, experience salvation, and speak of Him to others also?
We should not be afraid to be healed and leave our exiled place and walk with God back to our homeland where there is love and mercy, and contentment in His Word. While we are walking with God on the way, we must be ready to bring others with us, so they, too, can experience God’s healing hand and join us in receiving the grace of Jesus’s resurrection and salvation. In the words of Isaiah, “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God..He comes to save you!”