Sunday Sermon for September 6, 2015, the Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Is 35:4-7a; Jas 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-37
In the first reading God speaks through the Prophet Isaiah telling the people that those whose hearts are frightened should be strong and not afraid because God is with them. He then says that on that day the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be cleared. This is truly an astounding thing, but in our day it does not seem so amazing.

On the natural level there a distinction needs to be made between those who were born deaf or blind as opposed to those who have lost their hearing or vision. We know that Jesus healed people who were born deaf or blind. But today doctors are able to do transplants on parts of the eyes which allow people to see who were born blind. While the medical advances in such areas are “miraculous,” they are not so in the same way as someone who is healed by our Lord or by someone with a gift of healing.

The issue becomes even less amazing when we think of people who have lost their faculties of sight or hearing either partially or completely. That seems to be the case in the Gospel today because the deaf man had a speech impediment. Obviously, if he was born deaf he would not have been able to speak at all. To have his hearing restored is a great thing, but people today with hearing aids can rejoice in their ability to hear clearly once again.

In the first reading we hear also about the lame leaping like a stag. I recall seeing something about a man who is a runner. The man had lost both legs at the knees and now has special prostheses so that he can run. Much to my amazement, the other runners were complaining because this man had an unfair advantage. Imagine that?!

I mention these things in this context, not to belittle the miracles of the Lord, but to point out that many people have lost the awe they should have regarding these miracles simply because we can do things on the natural level that are somewhat similar. This being the case, I also want to point out that there is a another kind of blindness or deafness that is actually worse than those of which we have been speaking.

In order to understand this we have to go back to the first line of this article. God speaks to those whose hearts are afraid. There are so many people who are crippled up spiritually, who are blind or deaf in the “eyes” and “ears” of their hearts. They may have perfect physical eyesight or hearing, but they are blind and deaf to the deeper and more important realities.

For instance, if we look at the second reading today, St. James is chastising the people for making judgments about people based on external appearances. One man is well dressed and wearing gold rings while another is dressed in shabby clothes. They treat the wealthy man well while they essentially shun the poor man. Sadly, things have not changed.

There is a blindness in the heart in such cases. This is also true when we make judgments based on the color of a person’s skin, a person’s nationality, or if the person is male or female. If we look only at the appearances while being blind to the dignity and the goodness of the person, we need a miracle that modern medicine cannot provide. Glasses, contacts, implants, or anything else will not help our spiritual sight. If we are thus blind, we can also assume that we are probably deaf to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. Only a miracle from God can heal these kinds of problems.

Of course, we have to recall the adage that there are none so blind as those who do not want to see. So, we have to ask ourselves if we really want to see things as God sees them or if we really wants to hear what the Lord God has to say. All too often our blindness and deafness is willful and self imposed. Due to our pride and our prejudice, we do not want to be healed. So, spiritually speaking we are blind, deaf, dumb, and lame. These are the exact problems God says, through Isaiah, that He will heal. Look into your own heart and ask the Lord to show you where you are blind and deaf, willfully or through no fault of your own. Do you want to be healed? If so, open your heart and let the Lord do whatever needs to be done (in the Gospel, He spit on the man’s tongue). Fear not, because we will be able to see and hear spiritually, and God will be with us.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit