Homily for the twenty-third Sunday of the year - Year B - Mk. 7:31-37
Father Daniel Meynen
" Jesus returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, 'Ephphatha,' that is, 'Be opened.' And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, 'He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.' "
" Jesus returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis."
Jesus continues his preaching. He passes through the region of the Decapolis and comes to a hill located northeast of the sea of Galilee, as Saint Matthew tells us: "Jesus went on from there and passed along the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain, and sat down there." (Mt. 15:29) In few days, Jesus will be multiplying loaves for the second time. Remember that he had already multiplied loaves once before: we spoke of it a few weeks ago.
" And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him."
Saint Mark, whom we are reading today, is the only evangelist who relates the arrival of this sick person in such detail. Saint Matthew speaks of many sick persons in general, saying: "Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb, and many others, and they put them at his feet." (Mt. 15:30) As for Saint Luke, he does not speak about this episode at all.
So what is Saint Mark's intention in describing this episode in the life of the Lord? Is he not trying to help us understand, in the Holy Spirit who inspires him as he writes, the exact meaning and the significance of the miracle that will follow the one that took place on this day: the miracle of the multiplication of loaves? Certainly! For the Eucharist, of which the multiplication of loaves is a figure, is a sacrament that we can touch with our body before touching it with our soul by means of faith. So the sick person who is presented to Jesus on this day will touch Jesus; or, rather, it is Jesus who will touch the sick person in order to heal him. Indeed, when believers receive the Eucharist from the hands of the priest or deacon, they are being touched by Jesus: they receive Jesus in their body before receiving him in their soul. So Jesus touches the sick person who is brought to him to be healed: "Taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue."
" Looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, 'Ephphatha,' that is, 'Be opened.' And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly."
In order to be healed, it is not enough to enter into bodily contact with Jesus: it is also necessary for the power of God that is in Jesus to manifest itself and to really be exerted! Now, by what means is the power of God manifested and exerted? The answer is: by faith! For if Jesus heals a sick person, he does not do so as a man, but rather as God, the incarnate Son of God! And only faith allows us to think supernaturally and to say with certainty that this man, Jesus, who is similar to all other men on the outside, is not only man but also God. Therefore it is truly the faith of the sick person, as well as the faith of those who accompany him and who bring him to Jesus, that allows the omnipotence of God to manifest itself and to be exerted.
On this topic, let us recall that other healing recorded by Saint Matthew: "The blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, 'Do you believe that I am able to do this?' They said to him, 'Yes, Lord.' Then he touched their eyes, saying, 'According to your faith be it done to you.' And their eyes were opened." (Mt. 9:28-30)
So let us also receive, with faith, Jesus in his Eucharist! If we believe that Christ comes into us to heal our body and our soul, then there is no doubt that he will do so according to the measure of our faith! Let us ask Mary to help us to believe as She has always believed in God! May She prepare our heart to worthily receive this most great sacrament, mystery of faith and love!