Have you ever been so sick that you needed to rely on a family member or a friend to help you get to the doctor?
Sometimes, we are unable to be healed on our own. We need someone else to bring us. Today we will read about a man who was brought to Jesus and how grateful he was to those who loved him enough to present him before the Divine Physician.
First Reading Reflection
It is easy to let fear obscure our faith. So many of us deal with anxiety—a form of fear—that we need medicines, counseling, and other methods for limiting its negative effects on our lives.
Nevertheless, no method or medicine can offer a complete answer to our anxieties, because ultimately, all of our fears are based in suffering and death. The prophet, Isaiah, however, reveals to us that we should not fear death. While he frequently discusses the judgment of God against the sinful Israelite people, he reveals God’s divine plan to redeem the people. After the time of judgment, there will be a time of restoration and salvation for God’s people. The prophet’s words speak to us as well, “Say to the fearful of heart: Be strong, do not fear!” (Isaiah 35:4). God has come to save us from our sin and set us free from our enslavements. Isaiah explains that, when this salvation comes, it will be known through physical miracles: the blind shall see, the deaf shall hear, the lame shall leap. When Jesus comes, he actually cites this passage to confirm his identity as the Messiah (see Matthew 11:5), and he indeed performs miracles that fulfill Isaiah’s predictions. Isaiah also describes God’s deliverance with the image of a nourished desert: his deliverance will nourish us like the dry desert being nourished with water and blossoming flowers. For us, these images symbolize the spiritual fecundity that penetrates our lives when we come to faith in Christ and abandon the desert of sin. In practice, true faith can dispel the dark clouds of fear.
Second Reading Reflection
People talk about “networking” or even “customer relationship management.” Such terms are not necessarily problematic, but they push us in the direction of using other people as instruments, of only being interested in others insofar as they can help us to reach our goals. The Lord, however, does not want us simply to use other people. He wants us to recognize and honor the dignity of every human, because all of us are created in the image and likeness of God. St. James warns us against the sin of partiality or favoritism. He uses a Greek word that means to “lift up one’s face.” This concept is used in the Old Testament to describe preferential treatment given to wealthy or powerful people in legal matters, but James is using this phrase within the context of the early Church. He warns us against showing partiality to popular or powerful people at Church and treating lower-status people with disrespect. James condemns such judgmental behavior as making us “judges with evil designs” (2:5). He views partiality as a sin that violates the Second Greatest Commandment of love of neighbor. Every person we meet should be treated with respect and honor regardless of whether he or she can give us favors. When we encounter the weak, the outcast, and the poor, we have an opportunity either to honor them as our neighbors or to risk not being Christian by disrespectful behavior.
Gospel Reading Reflection
This short Gospel passage about Jesus healing a deaf and mute man offers us a snapshot into his conversion experience. The scene unfolds in four stages: the man has a need, he asks to be healed, he encounters Christ, and then he proclaims what Christ has done for him. First, the deaf man recognizes his need for Jesus. His physical inability to hear symbolizes our spiritual deafness to God’s ways, and his muteness represents our inability to tell others the Good News, even when we have received it. The crowd brings this deaf man to Jesus for healing, which shows that they recognize his spiritual authority. Jesus takes the man aside privately, and he touches the man’s ears and touches his tongue with his own spit. Christ does not offer up a prayer of supplication but instead issues a powerful command, “Be opened!” (7:34). This command reveals that Jesus is the Son of God, which means that he is divine, and that he is Lord over all creation. He fundamentally exercises his authority. Indeed, the man is healed in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prediction in the First Reading (see Isaiah 35:4–7a), which means that the time of restoration for the people of Israel has come. Christ’s healing touch allows the man to hear and speak, and we can relate to this miracle in our own spiritual lives. When we come to faith, we truly “hear” the Word of God for the first time and then begin to “speak” about it to others. The whole crowd is “astonished” and joins in the proclamation of the Good News. They can’t help themselves but to tell other people what they have seen. Like this deaf man, we too are called to recognize our need for Jesus, ask for his help, encounter him in the sacraments, and then proclaim his message to others.
Join the Discussion
Watch the short Opening the Word video reflection. Respond to these questions online at the FORMED community page, or in person with a friend.
- What do you fear?
- What causes you to be anxious?
- Do you struggle with judgment on external appearances, or do you look at everyone as created with equal dignity in the image and likeness of God?
Going Away with Jesus
The most challenging part of allowing Christ to heal us is actually allowing it to happen. It usually does not happen overnight and can be painful, just like recovering from surgery can be incredibly painful. Jesus took the man away from the others in order to heal him. Christ takes us away from what makes us comfortable, away from our past, away from the crutch of bad habits, so that he may purge us from our sins and give us true freedom in his love. As painful as it may be to reject our bad habits, do not be afraid to follow Christ where he asks you to go. You will not be alone, he is with you.
Reflections reprinted here with permission from Augustine Institute.