If you wish to read the texts click here: Is35:4-7a; Jas 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-37
The vision proposed by Isaiah in the First reading of today is a cosmic vision. The central theme of this vision is the proclamation that the natural order will be dramatically transformed. The first exhortation to those who listen is that they must remove all fear from their hearts. The reason for this is that the Lord himself is coming to help them in their need. The Lord is the antithesis of fear. This salvation, which will be effected by the Lord, is tangible and real. It will result in the blind being able to see again, the deaf being able to hear, the mute being able to speak, the lame being able, not merely to walk, but to leap and run. This is not all. With the coming of the Lord, the whole of nature will be transformed and redeemed. Where there was once a desert, there will be springs of water. Waterlessness will be converted into flowing streams. However, this will happen after, and only after, the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak, and the lame leap and run. In other words, the redemption of the people will lead them to see the redemption of nature. The people will not redeem or ransom themselves. Redemption and ransom are effected by God, and God alone. Through divine action, the people of God become the redeemed of God, and that transforms their lives in every possible way.
In the Gospel text of today, we read about a similar transformation that takes place in the life of a man after he encounters Jesus. This miracle is unique to Mark’s Gospel. This man is deaf, with an impediment in his speech. His deafness prevents him from speaking properly. Thus, it is only after his ears are opened, by Jesus’ words and action, that he is able to speak properly.
Now that he can hear clearly, he can also speak clearly. Interestingly, this is the first of only two miracles in the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus uses external methods. Also, the preparation for the miracle is elaborate. The man is taken aside from the crowd and, after Jesus puts his fingers in the man’s ears, he spits and touches the man’s tongue and gives the command for the healing in Aramaic. The response of the people, at the conclusion of the miracle, is an indication that the promised salvation by Isaiah has become a reality in Jesus. This promised salvation has exceeded all expectations.
However, despite this fact, this salvation cannot really be witnessed in our world today. Sometimes, it might seem to us that things around us are as if Jesus had never come. One of the main reasons for this is that, like the people whom Isaiah addressed before their redemption and, like the deaf man before his healing, we seem to have lost use of our faculties. Having eyes, we do not see; having ears, we do not hear; having hearts, we do not love. This lack of seeing, hearing, and loving, prevents us from witnessing the salvation that God has effected and is effecting in Jesus, even now. We are so caught up in ourselves and our own small worlds that we fail to take notice of others and especially the poor.
This selfish and self-centered attitude is pointed to in the second reading of today when James exhorts his readers, and us, that because of lack of genuine love, they, and we, have neglected the poor and have become partial, biased, and prejudiced. We attend only to those who we believe can do us favours and so, our relationships are based on barter exchange than on genuine love. This attitude prevents us from seeing people as they are. We look at them as objects that can fulfill our wants and we use people rather than love them. We do not really see them or hear them at all. We do not really love. This lack of love, in turn, prevents us from being the kind of persons that we have been made in Jesus. It prevents our ears from hearing and our eyes from seeing. It prevents our tongues from speaking God’s praise and our hearts from reaching out to all. This is why, even though deserts have indeed been turned into springs and dry lands have been turned into rivers of flowing water, we do not experience these as we ought.
The challenge of the readings of today is to remove the stoppers that we have placed in our ears and the blinders that we have placed before our eyes. It is a challenge to remove the blocks that we have placed in our hearts. It is to dare to hear and see rightly so that we can, indeed, love as we ought. Then, the dry lands will be watered yet again and the arid ground turned into rivers of abundant life.