On the Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Isaiah offers comforting words: “Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.” In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus heals a deaf and mute man. The people are astonished and say of Jesus, “He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
The first part of the week, the first readings are from the Letter to the Colossians. Paul is in prison, encouraging this community to put their trust in Christ, not mystical teachings and powers. He challenges them to live their baptism and to walk in the union they have with and in Jesus. Friday we begin reading Paul’s First Letter to Timothy. On Saturday Paul boldly proclaims that he is the “foremost” among sinners and a sign of God’s mercy.
In the first part of this week, following Luke’s Gospel, Jesus heals a man with a withered hand, on the Sabbath, in front of his religious critics. Then Jesus goes up on a mountain to pray and comes down to name his twelve apostles – all of whom seem to be unknown or questionable at best. When people come to him from all over, he heals them. Jesus announces that the poor, the hungry, those who weep, and those hated or excluded or denounced because of him are the blessed. He warns those who are rich, filled, laughing and spoken well of, for their fates will be reversed. Jesus urges us to love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us. He cautions not to be quick to see the splinter in someone else’s eye when we do not notice the “wooden beam” in our own eyes. Jesus says that we will be known by our fruit. It is only by building our lives upon him, as a firm foundation, can we hope to survive crises.
When we place Jesus at the center of our lives, as Paul calls the Colossians to do, two marvelous graces are given us. We experience God’s love for us in the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus. As grateful sinners, we then are able to forgive others.
As we begin each day this week, we can let these two graces be part of our reflection. We can ask our Lord to show us his love. We can fearlessly ask to understand who we are as sinners, in the concrete ways each of us falls short, gets distracted, becomes uncentered and makes very unfree choices. We can ask to be forgiven and healed. We can beg for the grace to forgive others. This journey each day might take us into specific patterns, habits, ruts we’re in. We may even want to prepare to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation this week, as we realize our need for forgiveness, and God’s great love for us as sinners.
We can choose to focus carefully this week on those people we ask for the grace to forgive. To whose faults do I pay most attention? Whom do I judge harshly? From whom do I withhold forgiveness? If we begin each day, asking our Lord to reveal the answers to these questions, throughout our day, our days this week will show us deeper places where the Lord can forgive us and where we can share that mercy.
In this week when we celebrate Mary’s birth, we might ask her to gently guide us to trust her Son’s love and to be more tender in loving those people her Son invites us to forgive and be a source of healing.
Throughout this week, we can also give thanks for the ways we are called to be Jesus’ followers—not because we are extremely talented or because we are perfect, but because he saw in us something that he could heal and then send us to heal others. We can be especially attentive to the ways we are blessed in our poverty and in the ways we sometimes experience rejection as his disciples.
Have a great week!