HOMILY OF 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
THEME: THE HEALING TOUCH OF THE MASTER
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
HOMILY: R1 – Is 35:4-7
R2 – James 2:1-5
GOSPEL – Mark 7:31-37
In his poem, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” Myra Brooks Welch, tells the story of a man who was auctioning an old dusty violin he found in his dead father’s musical archive. The violin was about to be sold for a mere 3 dollars, after the first and second bidders offered 1 and 2 dollars, respectively. As the third bidder was about grabbing the violin at 3 dollars, a grey-haired man stepped forward, picked it up, dusted it off, tuned it and began to play. The man played such sweet music that, its melodious sound and entertaining output attracted hundreds of passersby who listened with rapt attention. When he had finished playing the violin, people now realized the value and worth of the violin more. The bidding immediately skyrocketed into thousands of dollars. It was finally auctioned at 50,000 dollars. What transformed the dusty old violin into a precious instrument? The touch of the Master’s hand.
Beloved in Christ, the same “touch of the Master’s hand” (Jesus Christ) continues to transform our lives today. In today’s Gospel reading, we see Jesus’ touch and consequent healing of a man who was deaf and was suffering from a speech impediment. This man experienced the Divine Touch of the master Jesus, and his condition changed. It was indeed a touch that reassured and restored his lost hope, worth and value. It equally gave meaning to his existence as a child of God. Just like the dusty worthless violin in the introit story that garnered some worthful market value by the gray-haired man’s touch, the deaf man whose market value was reduced by deafness and dumbness was made whole again by a special touch by the author and finisher of his life, Jesus Christ (Heb 12:2).
Likewise, many of us have watched their price values and existential worth reduced over the years, because of life’s challenges and ugly situations of life. It takes the Divine Touch of the Master Jesus to put smiles on our faces again.
Nevertheless, the first reading presents Jesus as the coming Messiah whose mastery touch changes every condition: “He comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.”
So, what we see in the Gospel reading is the fulfilment of an age long prophecy; indicating that we have a God who never fails (PS 104:10; Ps 37:25).
*SOCIO-CULTURAL CUM PSYCHO-SPIRITUAL EFFECTS OF DUMBNESS AND DEAFNESS IN JESUS’ TIME*
The Greek interlinear (bible) uses the highly unusual word mogilalon
(literally: with difficulty of speech) to describe the deaf-mute whose healing is recounted in today’s gospel; he could hear nothing. Deafness and dumbness are often associated because humans learn to speak by hearing. A person who cannot hear his own voice or the voices of others has difficulty with pronunciation.
This condition greatly limited him, especially in those days when sign language and other communication helps did not exist as prominently as they do today. The man suffered the following:
(i) *SOCIAL DISCRIMINATION*
Any person unable to hear and speak coherently is almost condemned to isolation in a society where hearing and speaking are the primary tools of communication.
The man was almost entirely mute except for a speech impediment that kept him from communicating with others verbally. The word “impediment” in Mark 7:32 does not mean he could not make any sounds but that he had great difficulty in speaking. He could make sounds with his mouth, but they came across as gibberish. Mark’s account states that Jesus “loosened” the man’s tongue, which may indicate that the problem was a birth defect.
So, he was practically discriminated against. He suffered social stigmatization and segregation.
(ii) *CULTURAL STIGMATIZATION*
In a culture where physical disabilities and sickness were commonly interpreted as signs of a person’s sinfulness, this man would have been regarded as one who was serving the sentence of desecration of the land or effect of trans-generational curse.
By showing tender care to this man, Jesus shows that he has come to save us from the curse of law (Gal 3:13) and there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (ROM 8:1).
(iii) *SPIRITUAL CONDEMNATION*
From the religious point of view, sicknesses (deafness and dumbness), are regarded as a “curse” from God or a sign of demonic possession or manipulation. Ofcourse, many Jews would have considered this man to be stricken by God — a sinner. On another dimesion, when we cannot hear or refuse to hear the Word of God, we endanger ourselves greatly, not hearing the warnings of God’s ministers against the enticement and pull of sin and its curses and penalties. That is why at baptism, the “Ephphetha” ritual opens our ears and mouths from siritual dumbness and deafness. Spiritual deafness is infinitely worse of all spiritual sickness, it leads to eternal death. Those who are deaf to the Word of God will have great difficulty speaking properly of spiritual matters. Just as Jesus physically healed the man to enable him to hear, He must spiritually heal us so that we can understand God’s Word ( John 8:47; I Corinthians 2:9-14)
(iv) *PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAUMA*
The inability to hear and speak often lands one into depression. Such psychological effects redounds with sadness and sorrows. In other words, the state of deafness and dumbness is associated with lack of joy and happiness. So, the touch of the master restored his joy (Jer 31:13).
In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus restoring hope to the deaf-dumb man who is suffering depression, rejection, victimization and oppression from the society.
Moreover, we can receive many insights for our own life from contemplating the Gospel scene. Firstly, we are reminded that the man was brought to Jesus by others who implored Jesus to lay his hand on him. There are times when we cannot help ourselves and we need others to bring us to Jesus. When we come across people who are hurting and helpless, we need to bring them to Jesus.
In Jesus’ response to the man who was brought for healing, we see the compassionate love and care of Jesus for him and for all who need his healing touch. The gospel tells us that Jesus took him aside from the crowd. He deals with him on a personal level on a one-to-one basis. Jesus spends time alone with him, and touches him putting his fingers into his ears and spittle on his tongue. Jesus could have healed him from a distance but he draws close to him and gets involved with him and gave him the master’s touch that changed everything for good, while looking up to heaven, as if to remind all that His power comes from on high.
(1) *ONLY THE MASTER’S (JESUS) TOUCH CAN FIX OUR SPIRITUAL/PHYSICAL DEAFNESS, DUMBNESS, BLINDNESS AND MUTENESS*
There is nothing that experiences the touch of the master and remains the same. It is only the master’s touch that restores and gives meaning, value and worth to our existence.
Jesus manifests himself in today’s Gospel reading as the key that unlocks and restores every spiritual, cultural, social and psychological stigmatization.
~ The woman with the issue of blood got transformed by this great touch (Mtt 9)
~ Peter’s mother Inlaw had her hopes restored by the same touch (Mk 1:29-31).
~ The daughter of the president of the Synagogue was raised from the dead through the master’s touch (Mk 5:41-42)
~ The same touch of the master turned the leper (sinner) into a cleansed (saintly) man (Mk 13:12).
Are we open to His touch? Can we believe that His hand is there in all that is happening to us today? “Be open!”
(2) *EACH OF US IS PLAGUED BY DEAFNESS AND DUMBNESS*
We are told in today’s Gospel text that the man was deaf and also had an impediment in his speech.
We might say that we have no such problem, we can hear well and we have no problem speaking. But have we no problem? Can we really hear? Can we hear what people are trying to say to us? Can we hear what the situation we are in, is saying to us? Can we hear what God is saying to us? Jesus has the antidote. Just present yourself before him for your own touch.
(3) *WE NEED TO BECOME HEALING INSTRUMENTS IN THE HAND OF JESUS FOR THE WOUNDED HUMANITY*
As Christians, we ought to lend Jesus our hands to give the touch that heals the sick. We need to lend Jesus our tongues to speak to the spiritually hungry through us and equally lend Jesus our hearts to touch the lives of people in our day through us. As St Teresa of Avila insists, “Ours are the hands with which Jesus touches lives in the world today.” Why not make yours available. Jesus needs more St Teresa of Calcutta, St Damian of Molokai, St Vincent the Paul, Francis of Assisi; who he used to touch millions of lives.
Finally, a certain orphan, in her usual manner, stood at the street corner begging for food, money or whatever she could get. Now, this girl was wearing very tattered clothes, was dirty and quite disheveled. A well-to-do young man passed that corner without giving the girl a second look. But, when he returned to his expensive home, he’s happy and comfortable family, and his well-laden dinner table, his thoughts returned to the young orphan. He became very angry with God for allowing such conditions to exist. He reproached God, saying, how you can let this happen? Why don’t you do something to help this girl? Then he heard God in the depths of his being responding
Beloved, as we receive the master’s touch, may we be reminded that God has set us out to extend the same comforting and reassuring touch of love, mercy and healing to the poor, less privileged and needy.
MAY THE LORD GRANT US THE DOCILITY TO ALWAYS OPEN OUR EARS TO OBEY HIS WORDS, OUR LIPS TO PROCLAIM HIS NAME AND OUR WILL TO BECOME HEALING INSTRUMENTS IN HIS HANDS FOR THE WOUNDED WORLD.
_FR GERALD MUOKA_