Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 5, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Is 35:4-7a / Ps 146 / Jas 2:1-5 / Mk 7:31-37
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
Once there was a little old man. His eyes blinked, and his hands trembled. When he ate, he clattered the silverware distressingly; missed his mouth with the spoon as often as not; and dribbled a bit of his food on the tablecloth.
He lived with his married son, having nowhere else to live, and his son’s wife didn’t like the arrangement. “I can’t have this,” she said. “It interferes with my right to happiness.”
So she and her husband took the old man gently but firmly by the arm and led him to the corner of the kitchen. There they sat him on a stool and gave him his food in an earthenware bowl. From then on, he always ate in the corner, blinking at the table with wistful eyes.
One day his hands trembled rather more than usual, and the earthenware bowl fell and broke. “If you are a pig,” said the daughter-in-law, “you must eat out of the trough.” So they made him a little wooden trough, and he got his meals in that.
These people had a four-year-old son, of whom they were very fond. One evening, the young man noticed this boy playing intently with some bits of wood and asked what he was doing. “I’m making a trough,” he said, smiling up for approval, “to feed you and Mama out of when I get big.”
The man and his wife looked at each other for a while and didn’t say anything. Then they cried a little. Then they went to the corner and took the old man by the arm and led him back to the table. They sat him in a comfortable chair and gave him his food on a plate. And from then on, nobody ever scolded when he clattered or spilled or broke things.
This is one of Grimm’s fairy tales. It brings out the evil of overlooking the fact that every human being, irrespective of age, health, or wealth, needs to be treated with dignity and respect.
In our second reading today, from the book of James, he condemns favoritism. Favoritism means “to allow oneself to be unduly influenced by a person’s social status or prestige or power or wealth, or the lack of these things.” Favoritism can take either of two forms: looking up to the rich and powerful, or looking down on the weak and vulnerable. In Grimm’s tale, it is the case of looking down on the weak and vulnerable little old man.
In his gospel, each time St. Mark uses the word “proclaim” in relation with Jesus and His disciples, it is to proclaim how they preached the Gospel. By using, on this occasion, the same word, it is as if St. Mark wanted to tell us that, by loudly proclaiming what had occurred, the pagans were actually proclaiming the Gospel, proclaiming the salvific mission of Jesus. By curing the sick in this predominately pagan region, Jesus clearly shows that He not only came to save the Chosen People, the Jews, but all of humanity.
Today we know that people with hearing and speech impediments have many ways of being viable members of society. In Jesus’ time they did not have that opportunity. It is also true that today there are many ways of reading and listening to the Word of God. Because of this, there need not be any people who are spiritually deaf and speechless. What we do know is that the worst type of deafness that anyone can suffer occurs when someone does not want to hear or read about God.
We have probably seen many times in our relationships with family, friends, and even at work, that when we talk about God, we are made to feel as if we have done something wrong. We feel as if people are attacking us, and we can see that some people are infuriated, and sometimes we ask ourselves, “What did I say to make these people react this way, or to anger him/her and make him/her attack me?”
The reason that people like this get angry is that they do not want to hear anything about God. Just saying “God” is enough to anger them. They live with their backs turned to God.
We have to be prepared for these embarrassing situations. We should also understand at the same time that we cannot hide in any situations anywhere that, whether others like it or not, we have chosen to follow God. And we talk about God just as we talk about anyone we love.
We should know and try to prepare ourselves mentally for the fact that we will have to live through situations like this, and that many times we will find people who will contradict us, who will not like us. That should not stop us from talking about the Word and about the love of God, even though this may anger or infuriate others, including those who are most loved by us.
Let us always remember that since from the beginning of Christianity, we Christians have been looked down on, contradicted, and even persecuted for proclaiming our faith. When we feel that we are under attack, let us not feel bad. Our reaction should be the following: Love God even more, and proclaim the Word even more.
So today, in this Mass, our prayer is that God may open our eyes of faith, to see Him and serve Him in all people, especially in the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable.