A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Archive for September, 2018

Can I “perform” a miracle”?

Sometimes there are people who don’t want to hear.  These are folks who have their minds already made up.  What they actually mean by their negativity is,”Don’t bother me with facts.”  Then there are people who can’t hear because they are really deaf.

In the Gospel for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary time, there is a man who is not only truly deaf but also has a speech impediment.  (Mark 7:31-37)  The people who brought him to Jesus for a cure wanted him to touch the sick person with the laying on of hands.

In the time of Jesus it was important that there be actual touching between the sick individual and the healer.  The idea was that there was power that flowed from the healer to the sick person, which  often resulted in the healing.

Jesus responded by placing his fingers in the man’s ears and placing spittle on his tongue.  Then, he looked to heaven and said “Ephphata,” which in Aramaic means “Be opened.”

A miracle was performed….  So, how did Jesus perform this miracle?  By two actions:  TOUCHING and PRAYER.  A significant way in which we can appreciate this Gospel, is to reflect on how Jesus performed this miracle.  By touching and prayer.

Incidentally, there is another way of “touching” besides physical contact.  And that is spiritual contact, namely, dealings with the emotions and the mind.  An example is one of response when you sense the need of another.

When someone is hungry and/or homeless, is your response one of willingness to help or not?  Your response will be based on the thoughts (which later turn to actions) of your sense of compassion.

Prayer does not to be scripted.  Even though we often follow a script when we pray to God, we don’t do so when talking to a friend.  So why not talk to God as a friend?  Often there are needs and other problems that we have, so a simple discussion between “friends” would be much better than a script.  But keep in mind that God’s answer to prayer may be “yes,’; “no,”; or “not yet.”

Jesus performed a miracle by “touching” and “prayer.”   Maybe by “touching” ourselves or others, in the sense of our value system,(peace, justice, compassion, forgiveness, etc.) we can be of help or not.  “Prayer” will validate the request.  We may quite likely be performing a miracle….  Who knows?

 

 

 

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Keep it clean

Over the years I’m sure that we have all received some kind of advice.  Sometimes from parents, fiends, the media, or someone else.  I remember some advice given long ago.  “Always wash your hands before eating.”  It was good medical advice because one didn’t always know what one had touched.  But, there were those who let the
hand washing become some kind of fixation.

If memory serves me well, years ago there was a TV series called “Monk.”  It was about a detective who had this hand-washing fixation.  He washed his hands before (and sometimes after) meeting people.  His secretary, standing next to him, was always ready with the box of Handy-Wipes.  Now that was a fixation.

In the Gospel for the Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mark 7:1-23), some Scribes and Pharisees appear to have a fixation on hand washing.  They ask Jesus why his disciples don’t wash their hands before eating.

Jesus takes this opportunity to distinguish among his listeners the difference between physical and spiritual cleanliness.  It boils down to this quote.  “Nothing that enters one, can defile that person, but the things that come out from within , are what defile.”  (Mark 7: 15-16)   That is to say, the physical (hand washing, cleanliness in general) and spiritual (ten commandments) must be distinguished.

The Gospel can tell us a couple of things.  First, it is a good and healthy idea to wash one’s hands before eating, but not to the extent that Monk, the TV detective, did.  Any kind of fixation is problematic.  What one puts inside goes to the stomach.

Second, It would be wise to follow Jesus’ advice which comes at the end of today’s Gospel.   “…It is what comes out of a person that defiles.  For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, deceit, wickedness, envy, slander, pride.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  (Mark 7:20-23)   What comes out comes from the heart.

In effect, it is good to wash your hands before eating, but cleanliness should not be an extreme. (Physical)   But it is better not to give in to the vices mentioned above, because thoughts often become actions.  And from our Baptism we all have the responsibility to treat others with dignity.  (Spiritual)

If people really want to know what kind of people we are, they will judge us not by the cleanliness of our hands, but by the “cleanliness” of how we treat others, e.g. with justice, compassion, forgiveness, understanding. The message?  “Keep it clean” when dealing with others.

 

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