Saturday, September 4, 2021

For Those Whose Hearts Are Frightened: A Reflection on the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Wally and I were invited to share a reflection at From His Heartour parish blog, on the Mass readings for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

This Sunday, the prophet Isaiah shares a message for "those whose hearts are frightened." What fears dictate my life? Isaiah describes a healing God: "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing." (Isaiah 35:4-7)

Maybe my fears aren't from being physically blind or deaf or mute or lame, but I can't see the next step in my future, and it scares me. Or I can't hear God's voice, and I feel alone. Or I don't have the courage to take a necessary step forward. Or something needs to be said, but I'm too afraid to say it.

In the Gospel reading, we see Jesus fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy: Jesus heals a deaf man with a speech impediment by taking the man "off by himself away from the crowd" (Matthew 7:31-37). Why move away from everyone? Was the deaf man experiencing a panic attack amid the pushing and shoving of so many people? Was the crowd only begging Jesus to heal this man as spiritual entertainment?

Whatever the reason, in this interaction, we see Jesus' sensitivity to our unique needs for friendship and healing. Sometimes, Jesus heals in front of others, but not in this case. Jesus knows this man, deaf with a speech impediment, and knows he needs personal time away from the crowd to experience healing. And God does the same for each of us, meeting with us wherever we're most receptive—maybe in a quiet place in nature or a comfortable chair with a journal or a beautiful liturgy or, like St. Josemaria Escriva, a crowded train during rush hour, or like the man in this Sunday's Gospel, "off by [ourselves] away from the crowd."

How do I need Jesus to meet with me today?

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