23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Vinner)
LIKE JESUS, LET US DO ALL THINGS WELL WITHOUT FAVORITISM
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On this twenty third Sunday of ordinary time, we celebrate Christ our Savior who shows no favoritism and makes no distinction between classes of people but, makes all rich in faith. Our first reading is a message of hope for the oppressed people of God. It is a message of hope for all of us in need of God’s saving help. Above all, it is a message of hope from a loving Father who does not show favoritism or, like oppression.
In our second reading today, although James focuses on the sin of showing favoritism to the rich and despising the poor, his words certainly apply to all types of prejudices in our families, churches and societies. That is, whether it is based on economic status, race, or anything else. To favor some people and disregard others based on outward factors is a terrible sin that afflicted the early church. This was why seven deacons were elected to avoid favoritism in the distribution of resources in Acts 6. The message of James is still very relevant to all of us today. This is because today, in our families, communities, churches, states, and indeed all over the world, people still suffer terribly because of who they are, where they come from, the color of their skin, their economic, social, political, religious and cultural status. It is sad to know that in this century, favoritism, discrimination and, racism still plagues our society. This should not be so for us as Christians.
Where and whenever they exist, they are signs that we do not yet know or understand God and his ways. They are expressions of emptiness and shallow spirituality. Their roots are in these twin vices called: pride and selfishness. These two vices are endemic to our fallen hearts and nature. Pride makes one think he or she is better than the other or, that some human beings are superior while others are inferior. So, they should be treated differently. Selfishness makes one think only about ones wellbeing and so, ignore the sufferings and needs of others. It also tempts and actually leads one to take undue advantage of the other person because he or she feels stronger than the other. These twin vices are the forces behind the theory of “Might is Right” which is a negative expression of power.
Today’s gospel tells us that, “Jesus went about from one town to the other doing good.” We were not told that he healed only the poor or the rich. Rather, he allowed his blessings to reach the poor as well as the rich, the good as well as the bad. Jesus did not discriminate or show favoritism. Instead, he identified with all classes of people. Christ visited and eat with Zacchaeus, the sinner and tax collector and, he became a better person. He healed the daughter of Jairus, the Roman centurion who was both wealthy and a gentile. He spoke with, and restored the life and faith of a Samaritan woman, which according to the Jews was a grave sin. Among his apostles was Levi, a very rich tax collector who today is Saint Matthew. On the other hand, He healed many poor blind, lame, deaf and dumb people. “He did all things well”without showing favoritism, or minding the race, the economic, social, religious and, political status of those he helped.
Life messages: 1) we need to help Jesus to heal the deaf and the mute today. Jesus desires to give us his healing touch in order to loosen our tongues so that he may speak to the spiritually hungry through us. He invites us to give him our hearts so that he may touch the lives of people in our day through us, just as he touched the lives of millions through saintly souls like Francis of Assisi, Damien of Molokai, Vincent de Paul and Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa). Like them, we are also invited to become the voice of the “poorest of the poor,” the helpless, the downtrodden and the unwanted who are set aside by the “new economy,” or who cannot even “speak plainly and fearlessly” about their concerns. Jesus’ touch will reveal to us how we neglect, scorn or shame some people while showing favor to others. His compassionate touch will help us to hear the cries of the poor and the sick. It will teach us to show kindness, mercy and consideration to others. His healing touch will also help us convey peace and hope to those around us.
2) We need to allow Jesus to heal our spiritual deafness and muteness. In times of grief, despair and failure, we can be “deaf” to the presence of God in the love and compassion of others; or we can become so preoccupied with the noise and clamor of the marketplace that we are unable to hear the voices of those we love and who love us. We may find it hard to speak to God in prayer and harder still to hear Him speaking to us through the Bible and through the Church. This may be because many of us are satisfied with what we have learned in catechism class about the Seven Sacraments, the Ten Commandments of God, the Six Commandments of the Church and the seven deadly sins. We don’t want to hear more about our Faith through further study of the Bible or the teachings of the Church. It is not infrequent to meet Catholics who are highly qualified in their secular professions but are basically illiterate in their Faith. Hence, let us imitate the dumb man in the Gospel by seeking out Jesus, following him away from the crowd and spending more of our time in coming to know him intimately as we study Holy Scripture and to experience him directly in our lives in personal prayer. Our growing awareness of the healing presence of Jesus in our lives will open our ears and loosen our tongues.
My dear brother and sisters in Christ, we must emulate Jesus today by aiming at doing good to all, healing the wounded, helping others in need without favoritism or, minding their status. We should be motivated by the fact that, “God created all of us in his own image and likeness” (Gen
2, 27). So, we must strive to be better than others in generosity and goodness, rather than in favoritism. God wishes to heal us and our world. As his instruments, we must emulate the generosity of Christ his Son. We must go about doing good and reaching out to those in need irrespective of who they are, their status, and class in life.
May God Bless us.
FR. S.Vinner HGN