23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com – Jesus heals the blind man

Isaiah 35:4-7
James 2:15
Mark 7:31-37

Deaf and Blind

I begin today’s reflection with almost the entire first reading from Isaiah. It sets the tone for the thoughts and feeling I have from the gospel.

“Thus says the Lord: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: 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; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing…”

In the gospel we find the most physical of all Jesus’ healings. He is in a gentile area when a man who is deaf and unable to speak is brought to him for healing. His friends begged him to lay his hand on the man. “[Jesus} took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” — And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.” Jesus does not hesitate to touch the man, even touching his tongue, knowing all this makes him ritually unclean.

The readings from today call us to consider our attitudes toward the handicapped, impaired, or otherwise challenged members of the human family. In the last few decades our attitudes regarding physically and/or mentally impaired persons have evolved. Our growing sensitivity and respect for another’s differences has helped us to see all people as having value. We now have new and more positive ways of describing someone’s physical or mental challenges.

A recent example comes from Facebook where two boys at a sporting event started to mock a cheerleader with down syndrome. The boys on the team stopped playing, and instead, confronted the two mockers. The team players are a clear sign of growing attitudes to accept all people and show then the rightful respect they deserve.

The Letter of James provides good advice. “My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.”

May our ears be healed of any spiritual deafness we may have within us. May our tongues be freed to speak only what is kind and genuine.

What is your personal attitude toward any forms of disability? Does it influence how you treat people?

What are your examples of spiritual deafness? When are you reluctant to speak out for others who need your help?

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