Sunday, September 9, 2012
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time—B
“The Spirit is called the finger of God,” said St. Gregory the Great. “When the Lord put his fingers into the ears of the deaf mute, he was opening the soul of man to faith through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” This was foretold by the prophet Isaiah, as we hear in today’s first reading: “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.”
Jesus’ actions in the Gospel, then, are signs that God’s long-awaited promises of deliverance, redemption, and healing have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, God’s Word made flesh. However, we must look beyond Jesus’ many acts of physical healing throughout the gospels for what they ultimately signify. They are signs of something much greater: “By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death, Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless, he did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage” (Cathechism of the Catholic Church, 549).
And so, in today’s Gospel, Jesus “took [the deaf mute] off by himself away from the crowd.” The afflicted man enters the presence of God’s Word in silence and solitude, and only in that setting does he become able to hear and speak as one should. True deliverance, redemption, and healing from earthly evil are brought about by a personal encounter with Jesus Christ (often mediated by human disciples; as we hear in the Gospel, the deaf mute is brought by others to Jesus, and they beg Jesus to heal him; he does so, but only after leading him away from the crowd so they can be alone).
Religion is not merely moral instruction and doctrine. It is not about personal wealth and health. It is certainly not a political cause. At its heart, true religion is a relationship with the God who comes to save us. And he meets us in the silence of our hearts, which his fingers shaped from the beginning.