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Bulletin: September 5, 2021

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Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time


Our readings this Sunday describe God’s work of liberation for those who are vulnerable. Isaiah portrays the coming of God in terms of the healing of the blind, the deaf, and the lame. James notes that God chooses the poor to be rich in faith. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus heals a deaf person who has a speech impediment. The readings remind us of the acute struggles of the disabled, the excluded, and the poor. In the last year and a half, the pandemic has reminded us that we are all vulnerable, that illness and death are near us always. Today we hear that God’s presence is revealed when God lifts us up, and when we join God to lift each other up. Our care for others, especially those in greatest need, can be our grateful response to God’s healing of us in our own vulnerability.


BLESSING FOR ALL

The story of the deaf man related in today’s Gospel is one of several descriptions of extraordinary healings in this part of Mark’s Gospel. Mark leads readers to understand that in Jesus, God is fulfilling the divine promises prophesied by Isaiah: “the ears of the deaf (will) be cleared . . . the tongue of the mute will sing.” When the deaf can hear and the mute can sing, this sign of the coming of God means that the gifts of sight and hearing are now available, not only for the individuals involved, but for their families and the whole community around them.

There is a “ripple effect” of blessing extending well beyond individual healing. Those isolated by deafness and speech impediments could now fully participate in common life. With their inclusion, the community itself receives healing. In the Gospels, salvation is always inclusive and wholistic. God brings blessing to one small part of creation, so to extend blessing to all of creation.


BOTH LOVE AND CRITIQUE

For those who first heard today’s passage from the letter of James, it probably struck a nerve. James challenged the local church’s treatment of the poor as compared to the rich. It might strike a nerve for us too, because we live in a society where the wealthy are very much privileged, and the honoring of wealth is deeply ingrained in our cultural value system. James warns the church not to imitate the class distinctions made in the broader society. The Gospel proclaims that we are all equally God’s children.

The church typically lives in a particular place and within a dominant culture. The church is always called upon to reflect upon its faithfulness to the Gospel, discerning whether it absorbs cultural values and attitudes that conflict with the Gospel. The church is called to love and nourish the culture, and at the same time to speak in critique of its idolatries. These challenges continue in our own parish communities, here and now.

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