Reflections: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Is 35:4-7; Jas 2:1-5.
Some 700 years before Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah already said, “Here is your God … He comes to save you.” And the signs of his coming are: “The eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared, the lame shall leap like a stag, and the tongue of the mute will sing.” As usual when the Lord says it, he will fulfill it; when the Lord promises, he will do it. And so when the time of fulfillment came, the Son of God came into our midst: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” In our Gospel passage today, at the action of Jesus, “the man’s ears were opened, and his speech impediment was removed.” Throughout the four Gospels, we can see that many more miraculous healings occurred, and even the dead were raised to life. “Here is your God…He comes to save you.” The many healings of the body were signs of salvation brought among us by our God. Sickness and death were often connected with sin; so that when Jesus came and healed many sick and even raised the dead (Jairus’ daughter, young man of Naim), he was truly ushering in salvation; our saving God is in our midst.
Isaiah also used the water as a symbol of life: “Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground springs of water.” At Jacob’s well Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “The water that I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:14). Ezekiel 47:1 spoke of “water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the Temple toward the east,” then in v.47:12 he writes, “Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit …Their fruit shall serve as food, and their leaves for medicine” (cf. Rev 22:1-2). The Gospel of John will give us the explanation in 7:37-38, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’ He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive.” The Holy Spirit whom Jesus would send to his Church will make us thrive and bear much fruit for food of the body and the spirit, and with medicinal leaves that heal many hearts and lives.
In today’s Gospel Jesus did not heal by simple command or word. He showed action: “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.” Jesus is already anticipating what his bishops and priests would do in the administration of the Sacraments, a combination of action and words as the external signs of the grace they signify. He touched the ears and the tongue and said ‘open’; the gesture indicated the parts of the body to be opened; thus the external signs to produce the grace they signify. The saving actions of Jesus that heal body and soul continue in the Church through the Sacraments. The Holy Spirit acting through the Sacraments supply us the living water that makes us fruitful and healing for ourselves and for all the members of the believing community. Truly our Triune God is a saving and healing God. +