Twenty Third Sunday of Ordinary Time


How do you approach Jesus’s miracle healings? How is a person to interpret them, do we view them as medical marvel or do we read more into them? I think everyone has their own approach but in today’s gospel reading it is the first reading from Isaiah that offers some insight. Isaiah is the Old Testament prophet that guides the Israelites through their exile, and Isaiah is also the one whose prophecy gives evidence of Jesus as the messiah. In the first reading Isaiah describes a messiah that heals. The blind see, the mute speak, and the deaf hear. Using that as a guide, the account of Jesus healing records an action of Jesus as Isaiah’s prophesy fulfilled. The fulfillment of those prophetic visions punctuate the gospel accounts.

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

In the gospel reading Jesus preforms this miracle in a specific location, and the writer spends time on describing that place. Collectively it is the Decapolis. The detail might (does) describe an historical fact, but what are the specifics of this region? Details add depth to the story, it sets a scene. The Decapolis is a region where Jesus devotes a large amount of His ministry to. It is a Roman stronghold, largely autonomous, and heavily populated with Gentiles. In that region a first century Jew would be in the minority, and groups such as the Pharisees would have a difficult time negotiating such a culture. For Jesus to perform a miracle there is no small event. The people that brought the deaf and dumb man to Jesus begged that Jesus lay His hands on him. I wonder why, and if they expected a response? By the sounds of those people’s cheers, Jesus restored more than a man’s senses. Jesus restored a people’s faith. It was not simply a body that was brought back to health, but also a relationship. Jesus is all about restoring a relationship. His mission is to restore a relationship between God and man.

They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The rest of the gospel account goes through the details of the healing. Jesus takes the man aside. He puts His finger into the man’s ear, and touches his tongue. Jesus makes physical contact with that individual, and what does that suggest? It tells that Jesus the Christ, and Christos means the messiah, was in close proximity to crippled man. All of those details point to a cure that required that a messiah be in close contact with the people he restored. To the people of that day, there would be little trouble having faith in a messiah that descended upon a cloud, or resided in a cloud, or who was visible through lightening, or fire, or water. A messiah that was born of a woman, and in a manger? Preposterous! A messiah the son of a laborer? Who could believe that? In the Old Testament God could take any form, to Moses God was revealed in a burning bush. To the Hebrews God resided in a cloud and a pillar of fire, and eventually took residence in the Temple. That was believable, but Jesus Christ, Son of man was a challenge. The healing tells of an action that required salvation to enter into creation. That is something worth noting. A healing of hearing, and speech, and perception. That physical presence is important. It is not simply “the Word” but also “the Body” The Mass has two parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Body as the Eucharist. Does the Mass heal?

The final part of the healing concerns the senses. The two senses that were restored are closely related, hearing and speech. Hearing properly aids one in speaking clearly. Jesus took the person aside, away from the noise and commotion so that they could quite literally take hold of their senses. Jesus led the person to a place where they could regain their perspective and continue along the right path. Surprisingly that part of the miracle is quite common, though often not so dramatic. It is the good news of Jesus Christ.

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