Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Ancient Egypt, represented particularly by its pyramids and the mummies, became a symbol of self-preservation. It was not surprising that at the beginning of their reign, the pharaohs started to plan their pyramids, on the belief that after death, their spirits would remain in their bodies in preparation for another life. They spent so much of their national treasure to design and build pyramids according to their plans, at the expense of the life of the citizens and development of the nation. The pharaohs have been compared to many world leaders who have sought to prioritize their self-preservation and of their families to remain in power so as to keep up with wealth and fame. Thus, they failed to allow their country to develop progressively and their citizens to prosper fully.
The Scribes and the Pharisees were, as they claim, a breed of educated people, who wanted to preserve to the letter the traditions of their forefathers, sacrificing the understanding of the Spirit of the law. The Scribes and Pharisees could not stand change; they could not stand Jesus. They stopped growing; they also stopped others from growing.
Jesus ministered in this oppressive situation. Many people followed Him though because they saw in Him the Messiah and because He taught them as one with authority, unlike the Pharisees.
Today in the Gospel we recognize several significant actions that Jesus did as He faced the dumb and mute:
- Jesus “took him off by himself away from the crowd.” Jesus was prudent enough not to put up a scene, and He personally dealt with the situation. Jesus wants us to be personally associated with Him and to be with Him always. He wants us to be healed of our attachment to the busy crowd and to be uprooted from the busy world that takes us away from God. He wants us to be separated from the commotion of this world that glorifies our own achievements. God wants salvation to work in us and through us.
- “He put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting, He touched his tongue…. and said to him, ‘Be opened!’” Jesus wants us to be aware that God’s hand is always working in us. At baptism, through the hands of the priest, God opens our senses to His life so that in whatever we do we give praise to Him. Baptism leads us to involvement in the Church so that others can also praise God, obey His commands and follow Him.
- Jesus “ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.” This is pure joy. With the man’s encounter with Jesus, he received the gift and capacity of speech. For the man it was a capacity that he could not keep to himself. He had to thank and praise God. Only for the glory of God and for the good of His people can we use our capacity of speech responsibly. When we use this capacity for selfish interests, we abuse God’s gift meant to praise Him and to be used only for the good of His people.
We ourselves fall into the situation of self-preservation that oppresses others when we are:
- proud of our achievements,
- envious of others’ capabilities,
- arrogant and judgmental of others’ weaknesses,
- pretentious that we are better than others, and
- indifferent to the plight of the needy and the voiceless,
- and many others.
It is from this crowded and noisy road of our life that Jesus wants to take us out, and to heal us, so that we can give praise to Him affectively. Jesus wants us to encounter Him in our personal time of prayer and in the celebration of the Eucharist and Reconciliation and the other sacraments. He desires that we meet Him:
- in our involvement with the needy,
- in our care for the environment,
- in the development of our talents,
- in our responsibilities for our families and for the Church, and
- in our efforts to grow in holiness.
He yearns for our encounter with Him by upholding the truth, by promoting the culture of life, by living up to our religious freedom, and by fostering wholesome relationships and entertainments.
Let us renew our hope in Jesus who can remove our deafness to His call and who can release our tongues to utter praises and thanks for all that He has done, for all that we are and all that we have, so that we can keep our friendship with Him and become heralds of His Word and His healing power.
God bless you, your families and your endeavors.