Homily 23rd Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 35:4-7a; Ps 146:7-10; James 2:1-5 and Mark 7:31-37
Hope in the Lord in Solidarity with Our Neighbors
Fear, illnesses, blindness, dumbness, uncertainties, threats of war, earthquake, death, immigration issues and poverty are nothing new. They have always been part and parcel of human existence of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. The difference lies in how we respond to them today, at this moment. As Christians we are invited in the bible readings of today, to respond with hope and trust in the Lord and in solidarity with our neighbors, especially the poor, without being partial.
In the 1st reading when the friends, brothers and sisters of Isaiah experienced these things, for every good reason: wars and threats of foreign powers, Isaiah stepped up as God’s messenger. He reminded his community that: ‘thus says the Lord say to those whose heart is frightened, be strong, fear not…. He comes to save us. The blind will see, the deaf will hear the lame will walk, the mute will sing, the thirsty and he poor will have something to drink and eat. In these words, put in prophetically in the future tenses, lies the message of Hope for every one of us confronted in any given challenges- including the challenge poor.
St. James in the 2nd reading pays particular attention to the poor, just like our current, Pope Francis and many preachers from Latin America and other parts of the world! Truly, at functions and gatherings we tend to humanly pay attention most to the rich, the wealthy, and those who bring us big moneys and other favors! But for Saint James it should not be so. Christians should do better, avoid partiality and discrimination in dealing with our neighbors, deaf or blind, rich or poor, bearing in mind that, God actually chose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him(Jas 2:1-5).
In the Gospel, Christ, the Son of God intensified this will of his father, as he does throughout his ministry,- fulfilling all the promises his father had made to the poor, the remnant , the lowly who love and obey him, though Israel’s prophet, particularly Isaiah. We would recall, in Luke 4, in the beginning of his ministry, he says, “the spirit of the Lord is upon me…..” Christ has been faithful to his mission of love, to heal and care for the needy.
He does exactly that, in the district of Decapolis in today’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37). He healed the deaf man brought to him. He removed his speech impediments in a divine dramatic fashion by spitting on his finger, and commanded his mouth be “be opened” as he raise his eyes to the Father in prayers.
None of us is perfect! Our society is not perfect! We have our own individual and community impediments- physical and spiritually. We have our own “deafness’ and “blindness.” Refusal to opt for the poor is a form of blindness, just as the act of partiality against our neighbors. Think of the gap between the richer and poorer nations today. Think of the images we see on our TV today; the immigration crises, our borders, that recent wars have caused, the monopoly in international trades and marketing, the indifference and insensitivity of public office holders to those who elected them, the negative effect of social media on our children and grandchildren, threats to traditional institutions, like families and marriages. These and many more are some of the areas of our deafness, and blindness, so to say, that we need to call upon the help of God, and hope in his healing mercies.