23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time by Fr. Gerard Jonas
Isaiah 35:4-7; Psalm 15; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37
Today we hear how the prophecy of Isaiah in the First Reading is fulfilled in a non-Jewish community as vividly narrated by the Evangelist Mark. Notice how he described that before uttering “Ephphata” the Lord first looked up to heaven and groaned. Looked up – to implore the Father. But why groan? Feeling with the deaf man with a speech impediment, a groan is the most eloquent expression of the plea for help. Yes, the Incarnate, longed-for Messiah is truly Emmanuel, God with us, one with us, experiencing all our needfulness. Yes, the Lord groans for us, in us, with us. Last Aug 28 the Carmelite community in my home Archdiocese of Lipa lost their Superior, Mother Mary Cecilia to the coronavirus. She would have turned 65 next Sunday, Sept 12. Not only the remaining 32 nuns mourn, with them in grief are Mother Mary Cecilia’s only remaining brother Jose and many other relatives and friends. I remember that when I had my interview for kindergarten in 1970, she showed me around the new campus of the Canossa Academy together with my cousins Rosarie and Gina, who for years became my classmates. She’s my mother’s first cousin so I called her Tita Madre when she entered Carmel in the late 70s. She was already a nurse then. But she never stopped practicing her profession, she transcended it. As a Carmelite nun, she became a spiritual nurse to all who approached her, with comforting words leading them closer to Mary and ultimately to Jesus.
Yes, we encounter people around us whom God sends to lead us to Himself in the spirit of the Lord’s compassionate touch and words.
“Be opened!” Jesus did not just open the ears and mouth of the deaf man with a speech impediment. He did so too for all the others around. He did so to those who brought the man with a disability even before the man was healed, for in their heart faith was stirred and even moved them to plead Jesus for the member of their community. These Gentiles were moved in faith to recognize Jesus as the one who could heal.
Who or what circumstances brought us here together before the Lord? On the other hand, what aspects about ourselves do we bring before Jesus for Him to lay His hands over? And like the people in the Gospel reading today, as intercessors, who or what intentions do we bring before Jesus at this Eucharist?
Amidst the deafening roars of our needfulness, let us hear the Lord groan for us, groan with us, groan within us. Let our helplessness be an invitation to recognize our dependence on Jesus. But let us also hear the groans of those around us. For as we bring others to God in their needfulness, we ourselves grow closer to each other and especially to God.
Then we can say, the Lord has also groaned “ephphata” in my hear that now it can hear, and also are healed of our deafness to the needs of those around us.
“Jesus took the man with disability aside in private, away from the crowd.” For us here at Mepkin, it is a life-long commitment to stay aside with the Lord. As a praying community, it is our communal responsibility for the world at large to pray for and in the name of the world. For our Affiliates, it may be several months. For our retreatants, it is several days of solitude, while for others, it may just be to celebrate the Eucharist with us. Whatever it may be, the Lord takes us off with Him. Let us, therefore, allow Him to touch us, heal us, renew us, and simply love us. Jesus wants to have some private time with us. What personal blessings do we expect or ask from the Lord today, at this very moment?
Jesus, the great intercessor, Mediator with the Father, ultimate was his groaning while hanging on the cross. Before his last breath, he groaned to the Father to forgive our transgressions.
When we groan, we live the life of Christ. We live up to our dependence on God. That’s the call for us monastics, for all of us Christians, for all of faithful to groan for one another, feel and intercede, pray and reach out to God for one another’s needs.
Today, on this 9th day of Mother Mary Cecilia’s passing, I am sure that those who mourn are also grateful for the grace of her reassuring and kind presence that led them closer to God and Mary in all their groanings.
Mark Twain has called kindness a language that the deaf can hear, and the blind can read. As the Lord heals us of our speech impediments, may we speak kindness in words and deeds that lead others to Christ too, just as the people in the Gospel could not but all the more proclaim God’s goodness. So, in the end, everyone may say, “He has done all things well,” for God blesses us and answers our groaning through all those around us. As groans abound, grace abounds all the more for the Lord Jesus groans for us, with us, in us, and through us.