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Sunday:       Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Date:         September 6, 2009
Year:         B
The readings: [Is. 35:4-7; Jas. 2:1-5; Mk. 7:31-37]
The message:  He has done everything well.
Prepared by:  THE CATHOLIC DOORS MINISTRY
Total words:  1685

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** The readings follow the sermon.

Welcome my friend to the House of Jesus! What happens when a doctor, a lawyer or a mechanic explains something to a five years old child while using terms that apply to their trade? The child does not have a clue as to what they are talking about! Why? Because the child does not have the faculty to understand.

It is the same when Christians speak of spiritual things to non- believers. Not having the faculty of a spiritual heart, they are blind to all Divine works that are manifested. Not having received the grace of God because they have hardened their heart, "they listen, but never understand, they look but never perceive." [Mt. 13:14]

But we Christians, our eyes are blessed. [Mt. 13:16] Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we have received our new creation [Gal. 6:15] (C.C.C. # 1265) that endows us with eyes that see and ears that hear. [Mt. 13:16] While our worldly nature resists what is spiritual, by the grace of God, if we want to, we can immediately switch to spiritual thinking so we can understand the richness of all spiritual things.

Having said this, I pray that today, before coming to Church, all of you have switched to your spiritual thinking so you may all be spiritually enriched by the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today's First Reading from the Book of Isaiah began by saying, "Say to those who are of a fearful heart, 'Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.'"

In the days of this great prophet, the chosen people of God continuously lived in fear of the Lord. They had just cause to fear Him for they all knew how their ancestors had endured the wrath of God when they had hardened their hearts and disobeyed His Commandments. At the same time, they also knew that as long as they obeyed the Lord God, they would receive all kinds of blessings.

Now Isaiah is telling everybody, "Hey, everyone, be strong, do not fear! The Lord is coming with vengeance, to repay or reward. He is coming to save you." Place yourselves in their shoes and I can assure you that this was not good news to some of them. Many of those poor souls must have been shaking in fear of the Lord, especially the dishonest tax-collectors who were pocketing the money that they took from the poor. How will God judge everyone? Which one will be saved? Which one will be punished?

Thinking worldly, little did they realize that through the incarnation of God in Jesus, the Lord was coming to reclaim His Kingdom from the prince of darkness. The vengeance of the Lord was not against the people, but against spiritual forces, against Satan and his legions of fallen angels. [Lk. 21:22, 21:32; Rev. 12:10] The Lord Jesus was coming to deliver His people from their exile in the darkness as slaves of sin. He was coming to offer the new birth by water and Spirit. [Jn. 3:3, 5] Through Jesus, "the grace of God would appear, bringing salvation to all," [Tit. 2:11]

What sign did Isaiah give for one to know when the Messiah will be arriving? "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped: then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy."

Prior to the coming of Jesus, many prophets have come and gone. Through many of them, the grace of God was manifested and miraculous wonders were seen. But, one sign stood out, that particular one being reserved to Jesus. That sign was, "The blind shall see." This is why the New Testament emphasizes so much that Jesus healed the blind in fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. This particular sign was expected of the Messiah. It was like a Divine Trademark.

When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" [Mt. 11:2-3] "Jesus answered them, 'Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed...'" [Mt. 11:4-5] Notice the first thing that Jesus made reference to, It was that the blind receive their sight! This was the expected sign of the arrival of the Messiah.

It should be noted that the words, "The blind shall see." had two meanings. In the first sense, its meaning was literal and worldly, the blind being able to see. In the second sense, it was a reference to the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the spiritual heart that is received through our new creation during the Sacrament of Baptism. Through the grace of God, the spiritual heart has the faculty to perceive what is spiritual. It perceives the mysteries of God that have been revealed through Jesus Christ.

Isaiah continued by saying, "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."

Four of the words that Isaiah used are symbolic of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. These words were: waters, streams, pool and springs. In other words, the Holy Spirit will be sent (shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert [Jn. 7:38]). Those who thirst for spiritual knowledge shall drink (the burning sand shall become a pool). And they shall go forth to share the Gospel of Jesus with others (thirsty ground springs of water [Jn. 4:14]).

Having received our new creations, we are called to act as spiritual beings, to be holy as the heavenly angels are holy. As St. James teaches us through the Second Reading, we are not to show favorism to anyone. We are not to judge with evil thoughts by elevating a person in fine clothes over and above a poor person in dirty clothes.

God does not show favorism to anyone. For "the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy." [Jas. 3:17]

That is why God has chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?" Did Jesus not say, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." [Mt. 5:3; Lk. 6:20]

The poor in spirit, having a spiritual heart, embrace the spirit of poverty, being totally detached from the world. While they are in the world, they do not belong to the world. [Jn. 17:16]

They abide by the words of John, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world - the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches - comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desires are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever." [1 Jn. 2:15-7]

Did Jesus not say, "For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? (soul)" [Mt. 16:26] And did He not also say, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven." " ...It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God." [Mt. 19:23-4]

As a general rule, the worldly mind of the rich man is preoccupied with making money, investment, cutting corners to save, paying low wages to increase profits, giving to charities in return for public recognition, etc... All these things oppose the spiritual ways of God. In truth, his spirituality is dead. He does not have the spirit of poverty.

Today's Gospel Reading is a confirmation of the many prophecies that are found in the Old Testament, including those mentioned earlier during the First Reading. In the words of Jesus, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you - that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled. [Lk. 24:44]

Jesus miraculously healed the man who was deaf and who had an impediment in his speech. Astounded beyond measure, those who were present said, "He has done everything well!" [Mk. 7:37] Indeed, Jesus has done everything well.

Not only has Jesus physically healed the man, but through His Blood, He has renewed mankind. He has created a new world, the Kingdom of God, through the Sacrament of Baptism. By the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, we are new creations, a holy nation, a holy priesthood, holy children of God. The gift of our new heart is the proof of such. For while we can perceive spiritual things with our new heart through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, those who are not of God, they cannot perceive what we perceive. We are blessed!

"But there are many other things Jesus has done. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." [Jn. 21:25]

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this week, let us reflect on what Jesus has done for us. Let us reflect on the words of the crowd when they said, "He has done everything well." [Mk. 7:37] And may the grace of God always be with us so we will never forget the abundance of treasures that we have received through Jesus Christ and the power of His Spirit."


The readings...

[The readings were taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (C) 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America.]
First Reading...

"Say to those who are of a fearful heart, 'Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.'

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped: then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless 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." [Is. 35:4-7]


Second Reading...

"My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a man with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, 'Have a seat here, please," while to the one who is poor you say, "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 the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?" [Jas. 2:1-5]


Gospel Reading...

"Returning from the region of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis.

They brought to him a man who was deaf and who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. Jesus took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he signed and said to him, 'Ephphatha,' that is, 'Be opened.' And immediately the man's ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, 'He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.'" [Mk. 7:31-7]





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