Read Isaiah 35:4-7, Psalm 146:6-10, James 2:1-5 and Mark 7:31-37

“And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’” (Mark 7:33-34)

Once upon a time, I went to visit a man who was very sick in his house to pray with him and give him Holy Communion. This man virtually had no one to take care of him and even finding food was a problem because he was visually impaired. He lived in an uncompleted building. 

On this particular day, after the prayer and everything, I sat down to discuss with him and he said to me: “Father, I thank you so much for your care for me, how I wish God gave you the power to heal, I am sure you would have cured me by now.” Obviously, he was not even expecting to be healed.

I started asking myself was: “Do we Catholics even value what we have?” How many of us Catholics actually believe in the healing power of the sacraments? It is sad that many Catholics do not believe that by merely attending mass (Holy Eucharist) they can be completely healed. Let us consider the lessons in today’s readings.

1. God Always Rewards Our Faith.

In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said: “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” It is only when we believe that we can be sure to receive what are asking for. There were millions of sick persons in Israel at the time of Jesus, but it was only those who went to him in faith, expecting to be healed that got healed.

When Jesus went to his own home, his people looked down on him just as many Catholics look down on the sacraments today and we are told that Jesus “could do NO MIGHTY WORK there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them.” (Mark 6:5). 

Each time we attend the Sacraments, do we hear Jesus asking us the question he asked the two blind men who were following him in Matthew 9:27-30; “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” If you believe Jesus can do it, you will receive your miracle. However, if you do not believe, you are no different from the people of Jesus’ hometown. 

2. Jesus Instituted the Sacraments as Channels of Healing.

What is a sacrament? In today’s Gospel passage, did you notice the outward signs (Matter) involved; the placing of fingers in his ears, the spittle, the touching of the man’s tongue, the looking up to heaven? Do you also notice the inward form; the words Jesus used, EPHPHATHA? Do you realize that this is what we do during baptism?

When last did you attend the mass and meditated on every single word you heard? Again, does it occur to you that the priest acts IN THE PERSON OF CHRIST? Do we Catholics have the faith to look beyond the person we know already and see Christ Himself performing these sacraments? Hear me, before you start thinking of travelling to one campground or the other, know that the Jesus you are looking for is right here and there is no sickness, no disease, no family problem, no financial condition that is beyond the power of Jesus. 

Take the Priest as you would take Christ, believe that Christ acting in the priest can heal you when he performs the anointing of the sick. Believe that your sins are truly forgiven when Christ in the priest hears your confession. Believe that your marriage would last forever when Christ in the priest blesses you on the day of your wedding. Believe that you become a soldier when Christ in the priest (or bishop) anoints you with oil of chrism. Yes, God has given us the power to heal but do you believe this? 

3. Why We Shouldn’t Announce Miracles.

Virtually every time Jesus healed a person or performed a great act of wonder, he always warned the person involved or the people around against publicity. While Jesus wanted the people to spread the Gospel freely to the ends of the earth, he cautioned them to maintain sealed lips with regards the miracles he performed. Why? Jesus wanted faith in him to be built not on miracles but on the Cross of Calvary. Hence, he said: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32).

By televising and announcing miracles and testimonies rather than God’s Words, we run the risk of attracting people to ourselves rather than to Christ in whose person we function. 

4. The Sacraments are to serve both the Rich and the Poor.

This is where our second reading today comes in. St. James condemns a practice that has refused to stop in the church. It is very sad and we are all guilty of it. We should never be afraid of approaching the priest. The fact that you see one big man giving a white envelope does not mean you must give. The big man only gave out of his abundance, there is no charge whatsoever for the blessings of God. 

Let us pray:  Lord Jesus, deepen my faith in the healing power of the sacrament and free me from discrimination. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Isaiah 35:4-7, Psalm 146:6-10, James 2:1-5 and Mark 7:31-37).