Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homily by Father James DiLuzio CSP for Saint Barnabas, Bronx, NY
When “the eyes of the blind be open be opened, and the ears of the deaf cleared:” your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.
These words from Isaiah remind me of the story of Saint Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes who after the many visions of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception entered the convent of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers. Most of the sisters welcomed her, but one, in a Superior’s role, took an instant disliking to the girl becoming woman because of Bernadette’s celebrity. This sister ignored the fact that one of the reasons Bernadette sought religious life was to avoid all the attention that her apparitions of Mary, mother of God, brought to her and to focus on prayer and the virtues of penance. Moreover, when Bernadette was later stricken with tuberculosis of the bone in her right knee, the pain of which caused her to limb in prayer processions, her Superior mocked and ridiculed her and accused her of seeking favor and pity from the other sisters. Only when the Superior’s eyes were opened to the extent of the disease that had spread and the physician’s verification that Bernadette was dying did the Superior move to compassion and repentance. Her eyes were opened, and she spoke as an advocate for the young woman ever after, taking care of Bernadette for the remaining time of the Saint’s life until Bernadette died at the age of 35.
Take note, again, of Isaiah’s phrase: “Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.”
Clearly God is ever at work in the world, but human hearts and minds are so prone to ignore the signs, to override impulses of grace for more selfish motives. The realities of evil, temptations toward the deadly sins of envy, pride so often thwart the kingdom which is way, dear disciples, that God’s will is not done “on earth as it is in heaven” until some breakthrough of Grace occurs. That grace occurred in the waning year of Bernadette’s life, but it may not have occurred on earth, for the power of evil is great in this world, but, joyfully, it did.
Jesus perpetuated the realization of God’s will for the deaf man with the speech impediment. The reality of the miracle is but our first entry into faith in Jesus –belief that God’s will does include the miraculous, not for show, not for excitement, but always for healing, for reconciling people back to health and true human dignity. Jesus’ healing ministry also reconciles others to compassion and patience with the sick and suffering in our lives.
How can today’s Scriptures not bring us, once again, to attend to our institution’s failures to “see and hear” regarding the suffering of minors—children and teens—for decades.
Some of us may experience weariness as the crisis unfolds, but we must not let weariness hide the sins nor the vindications and restitutions that must be fulfilled for our hierarchy’s tragic failures. And there is much work to do for those who suffer beyond the Church’s walls : in homes and schools and sports clubs and everywhere else where there are maladjusted, unhealthy adults preying upon the young and innocent –not only sexually, but physically, emotionally and spiritually. It must be apparent by now that the Church’s scandal is so closely aligned with the dynamics of incest evident in many families who have yet to seek justice, heal and reconcile because family members caved into to incredulity, fears of scandal, and, in those cases where victims were believed –insisted on secrecy rather than truth. That is what our bishops have done and it’s time they accept the full scope of the civil consequences of their actions. And here’s the most important, of many reasons why: when Church and families have the courage to bring the offenses of the innocent to light–no matter the rank and file of their perpetrators– victims have their suffering acknowledged and that, in and of itself is the necessary breakthrough that empowers healing and introduces hope. Our Church could commission studies by psychologists and social workers on the tragic secrecy and denial dynamic—so harmful in that it prevents victims’ vindication.
I urge Catholics to be pro-active: write our bishops with your feelings and your ideas on all that we can still do to transform our institutions and build on the progress we’ve made to ministering to those hurt by the Church. Of course, we begin with ministries to minors abused by clergy, but there are many more abused emotionally and spiritually from negative Church encounters of other kinds. Last week I myself wrote to Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal DeNardo, President of the US Conference of Catholic of Bishops with suggestions I gleaned from many conversations with people from insightful articles in the news.
At the heart of these is the recommendation that Church Authority include far more lay people, professionals in all fields, especially women among them, and programs that will include life-long follow-up to victims of abuse—children, teens and young adults within the Church and outside of the Church because abuse of minors requires a life time for healing –and we owe them every opportunity.
The miracle of seeing and hearing the truth from victims and walking with them as Jesus walks with all of us will purify and strengthen all those who participate in these ministries. We cannot afford to proclaim the Miracles of Jesus, the healing power of Jesus as we do today, and not participate in it. Our Church has fallen into darkness once again – as it has many times before during history –but you and I together must rekindle the light of Christ through our words and actions to all who suffer. It’s now or never.
The Scripture Readings:
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1IS 35:4-7A
Thus says the LORD:
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
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.
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.
Responsorial Psalm PS 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10
- (1b) Praise the Lord, my soul!
The God of Jacob keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
The LORD gives sight to the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
The fatherless and the widow the LORD sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations.
R. Praise the Lord, my soul!
Reading 2JAS 2:1-5
My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes
comes into your assembly,
and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in,
and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes
and say, “Sit here, please, ”
while you say to the poor one, “Stand there, ” or “Sit at my feet, ”
have you not made distinctions among yourselves
and become judges with evil designs?
Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose 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?
Alleluia CF. MT 4:23
- Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MK 7:31-37
Again, Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished, and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”