SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Is 35:4-7; Ps 146:6-10; Jas 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-37  ]

Many of us, like the Israelites, feel disheartened, miserable and hopeless.  They were in exile in Babylon, a foreign pagan land.  They lost their homeland, their kingdom and most of all, their temple.  The days ahead were bleak and they lost all hope for their future.  Like them, we might also feel forlorn.  Things might not have been easy for us, whether we have work or without work.  Those who have work are not happy with their bosses and colleagues.  Those without work feel useless and constantly worry about their financial situation.  Then there are those who are sick or suffering from terminal illness.  We have to care for our elderly demented at home or mentally and physically challenged children. Others are struggling with relationships, especially marital and family relationships.   Indeed, the problems and challenges of life are many.  No one is exempted from the crosses of daily life.    If we are feeling this way, then the Lord wants to assure us that He is with us.  We are not alone.  Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord consoles us.  “Say to all faint hearts, Courage! Do not be afraid. Look, your God is coming, vengeance is coming, the retribution of God; he is coming to save you.”  Just as the Lord promised to restore Israel, so the Lord wants to restore us.

So what is preventing us from being restored by the Lord?  It is the lack of openness and docility because of a weak faith in Him.   That was why the Lord said to the man with a speech impediment, “‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.'”  Being open and receptive to His grace is the first condition for allowing the Lord to enter into our lives.  This is the most important disposition we need to receive God’s grace.  So long as we do not want to be open, refuse to be open, God cannot do anything.  This precisely is what the sin against the Holy Spirit is all about, a total rejection of the work of God through the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Many of us are skeptical about the power of God to heal us and to make things well again for us.  We delimit the power and wisdom of God.  Many do not really believe that the Lord does heal today.  He is always the last resort to whom we turn when we are desperate.   We do not come to Him for help so long as we have other means.  Only when all else fails, do we then turn to Him in prayer, hoping for a miracle to take place since human science cannot cure us or human ingenuity cannot solve our problems.  Even in our prayers, we pray in such a way as if God does not know how to do His work.  We give specific instructions to God, lest He does not know how to heal and restore us.  Our minds are fixated on how this God should come and put things right for us.

Perhaps, we are afraid to be open because of our shame.  It is significant that the Lord took the man away from the crowd.  “He took him aside in private, away from the crowd.”  The man must have felt embarrassed because he could not speak properly.  He was even afraid to speak, probably because he was made fun of by others.  But so long as he did not have the courage to open his ears and mouth, nothing will come out of him.  And this is true in many instances in life.  Because of past failures and embarrassment in our work or performance, we are afraid to take risks again.  We allow our shame and past to imprison us.  A person who makes a mistake performing in public and is laughed at will surely lose his or her confidence to perform in public thereafter.

However, to those who have faith, the Lord demonstrates His love and power.  Only when we surrender in faith completely will the Lord step in to save us.  This is the testimony of all those who have entrusted their lives to God, as expressed in the history of Israel in today’s responsorial psalm. “It is the Lord who keeps faith for ever, who is just to those who are oppressed. It is he who gives bread to the hungry, the Lord, who sets prisoners free.  It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind, who raises up those who are bowed down, the Lord, who protects the stranger and upholds the widow and orphan.”

When we have faith, we will be able to see how the Lord is at work in our lives, in good times and in bad.  Faith provides us a holistic perspective in looking at life situations.  Things are good or bad depending on the way we see it.  We need to see our lives, our sufferings and our happiness from God’s perspective.  In the second reading, St James warned the Christians not to see and judge people externally and practice favoritism.  It is always a temptation for us to treat the rich and famous better than the poor and ordinary people.  We fail to see that neither the rich nor the poor are better compared to each other.

A rich person might be rich in resources, talents and wealth.  However, he might be poor in love, in friendship and most of all, in faith in God.  When we are poor in love, we are really poor.  Those who are rich unfortunately are tempted by pride and arrogance, thinking that they are the ones who have made themselves rich through their hard work and ingenuity.  They fail to realize that without God’s grace and help, he would not have had the gray matter, the resources, contacts and opportunities in life.  Indeed, many are rich not because they are hardworking or resourceful but because they were born into a rich and wealthy family with good connections.  Worse still, many are rich but through ill-gotten gains, corruption, cheating and dishonesty.

The poor on the other hand are rich in faith, because they are materially poor. “It was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.”   Because they know that they cannot rely on themselves, they depend on God and whoever God sends to them.  They are humble and grateful for all that they have.  Their gratitude will earn them sincere friends because gratitude always leads to compassion for those who are in the same boat as them.  Those who are truly grateful will also help others with whatever little they have because they know what it means to be poor and deprived of basic necessities.  Of course, the poor can also take the negative attitude by becoming envious of the rich, resentful of God and bitter with the world.

Regardless whether we are rich or poor, we can be happy if we know how to use our resources and wealth for the service of others and making true friends in life.  The rich are called to use what they have for the good of others.  The poor are called to inspire faith in those who lack faith.  For this reason, St James says we should not make a distinction between the rich and poor.  So this principle applies to all circumstances in life.  Good or bad, positive or negative, the truth of life is that passion precedes the resurrection; suffering teaches us obedience and understanding.

Today, we must therefore continue to be open to God’s grace that comes to us, whether in suffering or in joyful moments, in sadness or in happiness.  We need to come to the Lord to be touched by Him.  We read that the people asked the Lord, “to lay his hand on him. He…put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle.”  The Lord comes to us in a personal and tangible way through signs, personal touch and through the people that He sends, through their words, examples, kindness and encouragement.  Most of all, He comes to heal us when we are prayed over by the laying on of hands, for this is the way in which God’s love and power is mediated to us in a real and experiential manner.

We too are called to be instruments of God’s mercy and love.  Just as those concerned people brought the deaf and dumb man to Jesus for Him to lay His hands on him, so too, we must be messengers of His mercy.  We need to lead others to Jesus by encouraging them to turn to the Lord.   Indeed, in the gospel, we have people like the friends of the paralyzed man who lowered him down through the roof and asked Jesus to heal him.  So too when the Centurion’s servant was dying, the people interceded for him, asking the Lord to heal the servant.

And what better way to be His instruments than to announce and declare the love and mercy of God as the psalmist did.  “My soul, give praise to the Lord.”  In the gospel, we read too that the man’s “ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly.”   Now tongue loosened and fear overcome, he could speak.  But he did not speak about himself but what the Lord had done for him.   In spite of the fact that “Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said, ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.'” Truly, a sign that we are healed is when we become missionaries and evangelists for Christ.  (cf Acts 4:10-12)

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved

Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

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