23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
5th September, 2021

 

Sunday Church at Home

during the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

 

Jesus Cures a Deaf Person.

 

 

The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

 

Leader:          In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

All reply:       Amen

 

Leader:          Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

All reply:       Blessed be God for ever

 

Leader:         God’s healing power was seen in the ministry of Jesus, and continues in the sacraments, in advances in medicine, in vaccine programmes and in the work of the caring professions. Today we pray for strength, trusting that God will continue to show compassion to the whole world.

 

LITURGY OF THE WORD

 

First Reading: Isaiah 35:4-7a

 

Introduction to the reading: This section of the book of Isaiah contains the words of a prophet to God’s people exiled in Babylon. He encourages them that one day they will be free to return home to Jerusalem. This journey will be through the desert, but God will transform this barren wasteland in order to ease their passage home.

 

A reading from the Book of Isaiah.

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool
and the thirsty ground springs of water.

The word of the Lord.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 146:6c-7.8-9a.9bc-10ab (R. 1b)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. My soul, give praise to the Lord.

It is the Lord who preserves fidelity forever,
who does justice to those who are oppressed.
It is he who gives bread to the hungry,
the Lord who sets prisoners free,

It is the Lord who opens the eyes of the blind,
the Lord who raises up those who are bowed down.
It is the Lord who loves the just,
the Lord who protects the stranger

The Lord upholds the orphan and the widow,
but thwarts the path of the wicked.
The Lord will reign forever,
the God of Sion from age to age.

R/. My soul, give praise to the Lord.

 

Second Reading: James 2:1-5

Introduction to the reading: The letter of James was written approximately 50 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was addressed not to a particular community, but to Christians everywhere. Because of this, it is part of a group of New Testament letters called catholic epistles – meaning that the author wrote them for all Christians. One of the trademarks of the epistle of James is the need to act on God’s word, not just listen to it.

 

A reading from the Letter of Saint James

My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Lord of glory.
For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothing
comes into your assembly,
and a poor person in shabby clothing also comes in,
and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing
and say, “Have a seat here, please,”
while you say to the poor person,
“Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,”

have you not made distinctions among yourselves,
and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world
to be rich in faith
and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised
to those who love him?

The word of the Lord.

 

Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus was preaching the Gospel of the kingdom,
healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.
Alleluia.

 

Gospel: Mark 7:31-37

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark.

At that time:
Jesus returned from the region of Tyre,
and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
through the region of the Decapolis.
And they brought to him a man who was deaf
and had an impediment in his speech;
and they begged him to lay his hand upon him.
And taking him aside from the multitude privately,
he put his fingers into his ears
and he spat and touched his tongue;
and looking up to heaven,
he sighed, and said to him,
“Ephphata,” that is, “Be opened.”
And his ears were opened,
his tongue was released,
and he spoke plainly.

And he charged them to tell no one;
but the more he charged them,
the more zealously they proclaimed it.
And they were astonished beyond measure, saying,
“He has done all things well;
he even makes the deaf here and the mute speak.

The Gospel of the Lord

 

 

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

 

Homily

An elderly gentleman had had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the doctor, and the doctor was able to have him fitted with an advanced type of hearing aids that allowed the man to hear 100%. The elderly man went back in a month to the doctor for a check-up and the doctor said, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.” The man replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I’ve changed my will three times!” 😊

Jesus heals man who was deaf with the speech impediment. Our response today is to open our ears to hear the word of God, open our eyes to see God’s presence in everyone, and loosen our tongues to praise and worship God joyfully.

We want to be as hope filled and joy filled as Isaiah.

“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

This reading from Isaiah fills us with hope and encouragement. When Isaiah wrote these words In the eighth century before Christ, the people of Israel were in fear and trembling: the northern kingdom had been conquered by the Assyrians and the people taken into exile. Those in Judah, the southern kingdom, were enslaved. Then, the Babylonians conquered the Assyrians and things went from bad to worse.

It is to these desperate people that the prophet Isaiah speaks, encouraging them to stand firm and continue to believe and trust God.

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened… The ears of the deaf be cleared.”

The blind will look and see signs of God coming to help them. They want God to lead the exiles from Babylon in a second exodus back to their own country. As the exiles travel, the desert will be transformed to ease their journey home.

Isaiah says, “For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;”

God will lead the exiles from Babylon on a second exodus.

We want to reflect on these words to see what they can mean for us today – in the here and now – the present. In many ways we have been made exiles, desert travellers, by the long months of the coronavirus pandemic. We are not the same people we used to be, nor is the world around us the same. Isaiah encourages us not to be fainthearted, or doubt what God can do to make our deserts bloom.

“Here is your God… Who comes to save you.”

As promised, we are given new sight and hearing. In our new, pandemic redesigned-reality, what hints of God do we see and hear around us? While it has been a testing time, have we experienced any healings during this time of exile? Have we become more patient and understanding with those around us? Have we been blind and now see the needs of others we missed?

One of the gifts the prophet promised the restored people, as they return from exile, was the blooming and beauty of nature.

“Streams will burst forth in the desert and rivers in the steppe.”

I did a little research to see how South Africans look after our meagre water resources. I found reports like this:

  • Missionvale residents in Port Elizabeth municipality have raw sewage seeping into their yards and homes.
  • Raw sewage is flowing into the Vaal River from pump stations in the Emfuleni municipality‚
  • And a reminder – the water we drink in Gauteng comes from the Vaal Dam!
  • Raw sewage has been flowing into the Sundays River near Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape for years.
  • The city of Cape Town has 3 pipelines pumping untreated raw sewage into the Atlantic ocean every single day.
  • Sum up (April 2021): Billions of litres of poorly treated or untreated sewage, industrial and pharmaceutical wastewater are spewed into our rivers and oceans. By the government’s own admission, 56% of the country’s 1,150 water treatment plants are ‘in poor or in critical condition’.

During the pandemic our ears have been opened to the prophetic voices who speak out to protect and restore the natural world. We are called to respond to that gift of hearing we have received.

This week I encourage us to spend time and sit with this living Word of God from the prophet. Let it do for us what it promises: give us strength for present hardships; sight for what we have refused to see; open us to the voices and pleas of others; loosen our tongues to speak on behalf of the voiceless; mobilize us to visit those we have been ignoring.

Sit and listen to the promise Isaiah places before us,

“Streams will burst forth in the desert….”

The desert is a harsh and dangerous place, unless we have a guide and provisions there. Our God will not desert us, but promises restoration and the refreshments we need each day of our journey. That promise demands a response from us. It would be foolish to sit back and say, ‘ Okay, God will fix the sewage works pumping raw sewage into the Vaal Dam!’

We are called to action by the Word of God.

In the Gospel we heard how Jesus heals man who was deaf with the speech impediment. There was something unusual about this healing. Jesus heals many people in the Gospels. What was unusual was how the healing happened. The man is healed because people cared for him and brought him to Jesus. They “begged Jesus to lay his hand on him.” Of course the man’s speech impediment prevented him from asking for the cure himself. But he could have used gestures and sign to show what was wrong. But still, it is the faith of the people that moved Jesus to heal him.

In ancient times, some physical ailments were looked upon as a punishment for sin, and limited the person’s access to the Temple and synagogues.  Thus, the man’s healing allowed him to be a full member of the community in its religious and social life.

When we pray at Mass, or with others, for the needs of community members and people beyond, we are doing what the people in the gospel did – bringing people to Jesus and speaking on their behalf. We trust Jesus to hear us and help in some way. Certainly Jesus does not need to be informed about people’s and the world’s needs. But when we intercede for others, among other things, we speak our priorities and in doing that we remind and reinforce those priorities in ourselves.

Our prayers express who and what have claim on us and remind us we are not merely onlookers, but stand with those in need.

The gospel is not just about one man’s ears being opened. It is our story too, because Ephphatha was a prayer said in our baptism.

After the baptism takes place this “opening prayer” is said. The presiding priest, or deacon, touches the ears and then the mouth of the one baptized and prays:

“The Lord has made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May He soon touch your ears to receive the word and your mouth to proclaim His faith to the praises and glory of God the Father. Amen”

We can pray at today’s Mass for the full effects of the Ephphatha prayer: that we have open ears to God’s voice and speak that Word plainly when we are asked about our faith; when someone needs to hear a good word from us; and when we need to speak up on another person, or people’s, behalf.

We want to be people who hear the Word of God – and act on it.

From today’s Isaiah reading:

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.

Reflection:

Isaiah describes nature celebrating the arrival of God’s redemption. The desert will gush with pools of water. If our ears are open to God’s Word, then we need to speak plainly on behalf of nature, which has no voice of its own, but is also included in God’s loving embrace and concern.

So, we ask ourselves:

  • Do I include the care of creation as part of my personal spirituality?
  • Does my daily life reflect this discipline?

 

Prayer of the Faithful

 

Leader:          We bring our prayers to God our Father, asking for God’s healing love to fill our hearts and minds.

 

 

Reader:

 

We pray for Pope Francis and all those who are called to lead our Church: (pause) that we may listen and respond to the needs of those who are poor with love and humility.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for the leaders of South Africa: (pause) that they may be open to the cries of those most in need, to the pleading of our planet for healing and to the good of all creation.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for a spirit of listening: (pause) that God will free us from the noise that blocks our ability to hear the Word of God,  prepare our hearts to receive that Word, and help us to put God’s vision for tomorrow into practice today.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for those people who are already facing droughts, floods and storms: (pause) that God may grant them strength and hope for the future as they work to adapt to the changing climate.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for all healthcare workers: (pause) that God will keep them safe, renew their energy, and work through them to bring healing and strength to all who are ill

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for Beverley Rayner who died during the week.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.

 

And let perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace.  Amen.

 

Leader:          Let us pray for our Earth:

 

All powerful God,
you are present in the universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with your peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not abuse it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle,
for justice, love and peace.
We ask this through Christ Our Lord.
Amen.

 

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

 

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.

 

 

 

CONCLUDING RITE

 

Leader:          Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

 

All say:          Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:          God of power and compassion,
in Christ you reveal your will
to heal and to save.

Open our ears to your redeeming word
and move our hearts by the strength of your love,
so that our every word and work
may proclaim as Messiah
Jesus the Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

 

All:                  Amen.

 

Leader:          May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

 

All:                 Amen.