YEAR B: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 23RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
TOPIC: LISTENING TO GOD’S WORD
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Mk 7:31-37
Message # 332: “My Heart is Bleeding”
1. The Marian Message
a) The message of the Blessed Mother was given on the Anniversary of the Miracle of the Tears. These tears remind us of “how great the sorrow of the Immaculate Heart of your heavenly Mother is” (letter a). Her heart is bleeding (b), transfixed with deep wounds” (c) and “immersed in deep sorrow” (d).
b) The reason for her deep sorrow and copious tears is the wide non-acceptance of her calls for conversion, repentance and return to God. People are just oblivious of the fact that this world is irreversibly moving towards destruction and eternal damnation. They cannot claim of being unaware because she has already on many occasions warned them of the terrible future that awaits them.
c) She sheds tears for the forthcoming devastation of mankind. A great chastisement is about to fall upon this humanity (letter f): “Fire will fall from heaven and a great part of humanity will be destroyed.”
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d) She also sheds tears for the Church founded by Jesus, for it is “wounded with the pernicious plague of infidelity and apostasy…Many bishops, priests, religious and faithful no longer believe and have already lost the true faith in Jesus and in his Gospel. For this reason, the Church must be purified, with persecution and with blood” (letter g).
e) Another cause of grief for the Blessed Mother is the fact that there is “disunity, division, strife and antagonism” in the Church, with “the forces of atheism and Masonry having infiltrated” the Church (letter h).
f) Finally, she is in deep sorrow for the disbelief and the hardness of your hearts” (letter j), that “sin is being committed more and more, it is no longer acknowledged as an evil, it is sought out, it is consciously willed and it is no longer confessed” (letter i).
g) In short, the Blessed Mother is in tears because her children and the rest of humanity have become deaf to her pleadings and calls for conversion and repentance, and are rushing headlong to damnation and eternal fire.
2. The Sunday Gospel
a. This Sunday, St. Mark invites us to have faith in Jesus. By narrating another miracle, St. Mark is showing Jesus not just as any ordinary prophet, but truly as the Savior, the long-awaited Messiah. Indeed, no further proof is necessary to prove this. And believing in Jesus is the most vital step to achieving salvation. As Jesus pointed out, no one goes to the Father except through him.
b. The location of this narrative is in a Gentile (non-Jewish) territory: the district of Tyre and Sidon, in the Decapolis area. This is to show that Jesus intended to proclaim his message not only to the Jews but to Gentiles as well. In Jesus, as St. Paul said, the Gentiles have become co-heirs with Jews. God desires the salvation of all people.
c. The ministry of Jesus which goes beyond the Jewish territory and into the Gentile areas is a beautiful illustration of what the prophet Isaiah proclaimed in the first reading this Sunday: “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God; he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared” (Isaiah 35:4-5). The age of the Messiah and salvation has come, not only for the Jews, but for the Gentiles as well.
d. As always, the miracle of Jesus is primarily motivated by his overwhelming compassion for the suffering and his infinite desire to bring freedom to people long under the yoke of any oppression, whether physical, moral or spiritual: “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”
e. On many occasions, Jesus would do miraculous healings just by a simple command, without having physical contact with the person. But in this account, he touched the deaf man’s ears, “and spitting, touched his tongue”. Touching the man’s ears and touching his tongue with his saliva are initial manifestations from Jesus regarding the sacraments he is about to institute. In fact, this action of Jesus has been incorporated into the celebration of the sacrament of Baptism, when the priest would say “Ephphatha” (“Be opened”) while touching the newly-baptized ears and mouth. This action of Jesus is a further illustration of the fact that God has indeed come in the flesh and into our midst, just as St. John expressed with full certainty and conviction: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life” (1Jn 1:1).
3. Points for Reflection:
a. The healing miracles of Jesus, such as this Sunday’s account of the healing of a deaf and mute man, are all proofs that, in Jesus, the Messianic Age has come. It is the age of the fulfillment of God’s promises for the salvation of His people. It is the age when people come face to face with the hand of God working in their midst through Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God. In other words, the healing miracles and many other wondrous deeds of Jesus are not meant for public show and spectacle, but are effective reminders to people that God is with them, and that there is salvation at hand, in and through Jesus. That is why, in every miracle, Jesus exhorts the people to follow and believe in him so that he may lead them to salvation. This is an important point for consideration. Many of us are asking for miracles from God. But are they still necessary? When we have already received the gift of faith, when we already believe in Jesus, miracles are already moot and academic. If Jesus did miracles so that people will believe in his words, then for us who already believe, miracles may not anymore be necessary. Let us be thankful that we have already the gift of faith, and if we nurture and strengthen this faith, it is that which produces miracles.
b. To be deaf is the most disadvantageous disability, a quadruple whammy. Aside from not being able to hear, the man born deaf is also mute. He cannot speak because he has not heard any spoken human word. Third, he is in such a painful state since he just cannot communicate. He is in a state of alienation. He can see everything around, but does not have any idea of what is going on. He wants to express something but he cannot be understood. Fourth, unlike the blind or the lame, the deaf man does not readily evoke compassion from other people because his disability cannot be easily known. On the contrary, when people learn that he is deaf, they tend to ridicule and make fun of him. Jesus showed genuine compassion for the deaf man. How compassionate are we to those who are deaf?
c. To be deaf and mute has its obvious disadvantages, but it has also its natural advantages. A deaf man need not hear on TV and radio all the bad news everyday about graft and corruption in our country. He does not hear about the stupidities and lies of our politicians and the endless gossips of showbiz personalities; the curses of foul-mouthed people, and the ear- splitting cacophony of drunken people in videoke bars.
A mute person cannot tell lies and gossips, nor can he curse and utter slanders and bad words. He cannot offend anybody by his words, nor can he deceive others by false testimonies or flatteries. He does not contribute evil to this world of lies and confusion. To be deaf and mute is a big disadvantage, physically speaking, but in the spiritual realm, it gives a person a huge headway in the journey to sanctity.
d. “Ephphatha!” “Be opened.” This formula is used in Baptism. The priest touches the mouth and the ears of the newly baptized child or adult. This is to say that in Baptism, the person becomes a disciple of Jesus (listener) and also an apostle of Jesus (proclaimer). He has to open his ears to listen to the Word of God. Then he is also to open his mouth to proclaim the message of God. The Word of God is not meant to be stored in us, but to be shared with others. Unfortunately, many of us choose to remain closed. We do not like to hear Jesus. Many of us are called Cafeteria Christians. In a cafeteria or fast food restaurant, we go to the counter to look at the food on display, and just choose the food we like to eat, disregarding the others. In the same way, with regards to the teachings of Jesus, we just choose what we want to hear. We reject the message about the cross, self- sacrifice and sufferings, but we like to listen about the rewards, victory and glory. That is selective deafness to the Word of God. Many also choose to keep their mouth closed when it comes to the Word of God. There are many reasons for this. Some are ashamed to be heard talking about God. Others simply do not know anything about the Word of God. And still others do not want to offend others or are afraid to sound self-righteous, or are afraid of self- incrimination. Whatever the reasons are, the Word of God is not being shared and proclaimed. We are silent witnesses who watch idly as the devil and the world proclaim with impunity and promote the values of greed, selfishness, materialism and immorality. And then we complain that this humanity is going haywire. A famous quotation said: “For evil to triumph, what is needed only is for good men to keep quiet.”
e. It is just amazing how the contrary is true when it comes to bad news, slanderous gossip and evil talks. Our ears are wide open and ultra- sensitive to such stories. And our mouths are extra-efficient and tireless in spreading them. Perhaps, deep inside us, we are willing promoters of the bad news because these give us the opportunity to put down somebody and feel better off than them. This is the classic case of crab mentality. But what we do not realize is that, by doing so, we become willing accomplices of the devil in spreading lies and bad news in the world. Hence, for such people, it is just right and proper to call them the cohorts of the devil. They should never be called Christians.
f. God never gets tired of making the initiative to call us to conversion and salvation. St. Augustine realized this when he said: “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you. You called, you shouted and you shattered my deafness.” We can never blame God of any lack of effort to warn and remind us and call our attention. It is just that many of us are simply stubborn and have hardened hearts. We choose to be deaf to God’s warnings and pleadings. This is what causes so much sorrow and tears to our Blessed Mother according to her message this week. God continues to respect our freedom. He cannot force us to go to heaven if we want to go to hell. He can just call us, remind us, and invite us. But we have to make the decision to accept His call for conversion. We have to open our hearts to His Word. Only then can He begin to work out our salvation.
Recite or sing the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: “Lord, Make me an Instrument of Your Peace”
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR THE B.E.C.
1. Ano ang iyong reaksiyon kapag nakakakita ka ng taong may kapansanan? Kasama ka ba sa mga taong pinagtatawanan at niloloko ang mga bingi at pipi?
2. Ibahagi sa grupo ang mga pagkakataon na ikaw ay naging bingi sa katotohanan at sa Ebanghelyo o naging pipi sa pagpapahayag ng katotohanan at ng Ebanaghelyo.
3. Bakit mas madali ang makinig sa mga tsismis, kaysa makinig sa Salita ng Diyos? Bakit mas masarap magkuwento tungkol sa kasalanan ng iba at tungkol sa mga intriga kaysa magkuwento tungkol sa Diyos at ng Kanyang mga aral?