23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

My Dear People,

Jesus is in the Gentile territory. This is the place Isaiah references in the passage of Chapter 8:23 and 9:1: “First, he degraded the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali; but in the end he has glorified the seaward road, the land West of the Jordan, the District of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.”

In the Gospel Jesus goes through the Decapolis, a Greek expression meaning ten cities. This area was largely Gentile territory.

The Gentiles in this area, who lived in the darkness of knowledge, now experienced Jesus being in their midst.  He cures the deaf and mute man. In other words, now they have the opportunity to hear the truth, the word of God, and they will be able to speak.

Mark shows this to emphasize the fact that the Gospel was eventually meant to be preached to the Gentiles. The last paragraph which states, “He has done all things well.  He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” connects with the first reading in Isaiah where God gives hope to the people, also in the passage of Isaiah where it states, “People who live in the darkness have seen a great light”. The people of the Gentiles (Decapolis) have lived in the darkness. They have not known a message of hope, and now Jesus is in their midst, giving them a message of hope and consolation.  They do not have to dwell in the darkness, but they can dwell in the light of salvation because Jesus is now in their midst. He is the hope that they need.

Jesus is also the hope for us. For difficulties that get us down in our lives, we should not rely on mere human philosophies or lifestyles.  There are many human teachings which have great insight and are very helpful.  Yet, no matter how helpful they are, they are limited. Why are they limited? They do not bring the soul to God and to salvation. Our soul was designed for salvation, was designed in the image of God. Unless we let Jesus be a light unto us, be that hope, we will grope in the dark.   

Jesus touching the ear and the mouth of the person is a ceremony repeated at Baptism. The priest touches the ear and the mouth of the child being baptized with the following words: The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father. This indicates that Jesus may open the mind to receive his word and the mouth to proclaim his word.

Holy Scripture quite often shows the laying of hands as a gesture indicating the transfer of power or blessing. Everyone knows that saliva can help heal minor cuts. In the language of revelation, fingers symbolize powerful divine action. So, Jesus uses signs which suit in some way the effect he wants to achieve, though we can see from the text that the effect—the instantaneous cure of the deaf and dumb man—far exceeds the sign used.

In the miracle of the deaf and dumb man we can see a symbol of the way God acts on souls: for us to believe, God must first open our hearts, so we can listen to his word. Then, like the apostles, we too can proclaim the magnalia Dei, the might works of God. In the Church’s liturgy the Holy Spirit is compared to the finger of the right hand of God the Father. The Consoler produces in our souls, in supernatural order, effects comparable to those which Christ produces in the body of the deaf and dumb man.


Yours in Christ,

Fr. Vincent Clemente


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