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Monday, September 7, 2015

Open Your Eyes and Ears: The World is Groaning for the Kingdom of God

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 30, 2015
Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

In today’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37) we hear of the healing power of Jesus.
Jesus goes into the district of the Decapolis, which was a region of ten cities on the Sea of Galilee, and some people bring to Him a deaf man with a speech impediment. They begged Jesus to lay his hands on him. Our Lord takes the man away by himself and heals him. 

This was just one of His many healings recorded in the New Testament. Our Lord healed the deaf, the blind, and the lame. Our Lord laid his hands on the sick. He raised people from the dead. He healed leprosy, paralysis, physical deformities, hemorrhages. He exorcised demons.
These healings testify to the coming of the Kingdom of God in the Person of Jesus. Our Lord was able to perform these physical miracles because He is God. His power to heal physical and spiritual illness flowed from the throne of God through Our Lord’s physical touch into the body of those who were diseased, and they were healed.

Moreover, through His healing power, Our Lord fulfilled the prophecy of today’s first
reading from the prophet Isaiah 35:4-7a, who says,
“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.”

Now, let us remember that even now, God has and does bring about physical healings. There are thousands of major documented healings at  Lourdes, France, where Our Lady appeared in 1858 to a 14-year-old peasant girl, Bernadette Soubrious. We may have also heard accounts of healing in persons whom we know or may have experienced miracles of physical healing in our own lives.

But physical healings was not the main reason why Our Lord came into our world. He came to heal our souls.  

My brothers and sisters, Our Lord Jesus is the divine healer. He entered into our humanity in order to cure humanity of its sin and defects! Our Lord Jesus has given us His Church to bring us healing through the
sacraments for those who want to be healed until He comes again.

In today’s Gospel we hear that Our Lord puts His finger into the deaf man’s ears and touches the man’s tongue with His spit, and the man’s ears are immediately opened and his speech impediment was removed.

When our Lord heals the deaf man by putting
His finger into the man’s ears, He says the words, “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” Our Lord is saying these words to each one of us also. In fact, when each of us was
baptized, the priest or deacon touched our ears and lips, praying that God would open our ears to hear His Word and our lips to proclaim God’s word. This prayer is a prayer of exorcism so that our mouth and ears can be purified of all that is not of God.

When Our Lord was about to heal the deaf man He looked up to heaven and groans. I think that we could all say that “groaning” is an expression of grief or physical distress. We all get tired or distressed and we groan at times. Yet, the groaning of our Lord in today’s Gospel emphasizes not simply His sadness for the distress of our fallen human nature which was being reflected in the person whom He was about to heal, but Our Lord’s groaning expresses a longing for the help of the Holy Spirit to renew creation in its entirety. Yet, it is not only Our Lord who groans in longing for God’s kingdom to be fulfilled on earth, but all of us long for this fulfillment in the renewal of our humanity.

My brothers and sisters, whether we recognize it or not, each one of us groans. We Have a longing for heaven, and we groan
because there is so much that holds us down from this true heavenly freedom that only God can give. We have a longing for the truth because only the Truth can set us free.

In fact, the entire world of today is in agony because it is being renewed, as Saint Paul said in his letter to the Romans, “all creation is groaning in labor pains… as we await for adoption, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:22, 23) 

There is both a groaning because resistance against the kingdom of God coming into our midst; and a groaning for the longing of this Kingdom. Those who are resisting the kingdom of God are those who decide to live only for the flesh. They set their hearts on the false ideologies of the world. They are stuck
in their sins. Those who long for the coming of God’s kingdom open their eyes, ears, and hearts to the eternal healing God wants to give through His Son. They strive to live in the grace Our Lord offers.

My brothers and sisters, Our Lord Jesus is the Divine Healer. He was sent to set our hearts on eternity; not on this fallen world that we live today.

He has come to renew our hearts so that we can be part of the new heaven and new earth  where there will be no more agony, and no more sin! As we come together to receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist today, let us ask ourselves, what are our impediments? Where do we need healing? What is holding us back from becoming all who God calls us to be? Let us bring these intentions to Our Lord so that He can give us strength and healing in this life and the gift of eternal life to come.

Did you enjoy this piece? Fr. Shea has written more. Who is Fr. John Paul Shea? From Mormon to Catholic Priest

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