If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 25 September 2015

26th Sunday Year B 2015

26th Sunday of Year (B)
(Numbers 11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-8)

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: in today’s Gospel reading we were offered a wonderfully comforting teaching, a sure promise, and a clear warning.  Which should we look at first?  As is usually the case with Jesus, let us consider the teaching first to which all else is related.

           He who is not against us is for us.
In the first reading from the book of Numbers we were told a remarkable story of helpers being enrolled and endowed for Moses.  What can possibly have prevented those two nominees Eldad and Medad from going with the seventy others chosen like themselves along with Moses, to meet the Lord at or in the Tent of Meeting?  Despite their absence, however, because they had been enrolled with the rest, we are told that:
The Spirit rested upon them, (since) they were among those listed, (and although they) had not gone out to the tabernacle, yet they prophesied in the camp.
All those chosen to help Moses were given the Spirit, and the sign of the bestowal of that Gift was that they all prophesied, even those not present at the Tent of Meeting.  However, since they were only to be helpers, not prophets like Moses:
When the Spirit rested upon them they prophesied, although they never did so again.
Perhaps those helpers of Moses were in Jesus’ mind when, in the Gospel reading, His disciple John told Him of a man performing miracles in His name:
Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.
Whereupon, Jesus answered with those memorable words we are considering:
Do not prevent him.  There is no one who performs a mighty deed in My name who can soon afterward speak ill of Me.  For whoever is not against us is for us.
Let us concentrate our attention on those words, whoever is not against us is for us.
Notice that this man ‘who is for us’ is still not one of those to whom Jesus relates Himself when saying ‘us’.  If you remember, Jesus was walking through Galilee with His disciples and instructing them about His mission and their calling; they, this group walking together and bonding so closely together in order to face the future together, were the ‘us’ whom Jesus meant when He said:
          Whoever is not against us is for us.
‘For us’, indeed, but not ‘one of us’.  What a privilege it was for the Twelve, to hear Jesus speaking of Himself and of them as ‘us’!
The Spirit was given to the seventy-two to enable them to help the great prophet Moses; and therefore, as a public sign on their behalf before the people, they were allowed to prophesy; but only the once because they were only helpers of Moses, nothing more.  The stranger whom John the beloved disciple had noticed performing a miracle in the name of Jesus was, likewise, only one temporarily endowed by the Father to be of help to Jesus.  Although the Spirit had been given to enable him to perform a miracle in the name of Jesus, nevertheless, he was not one of the group Jesus called ‘us’, because the Spirit had not been given him in the like manner and same fullness as He was bestowed on the Twelve: making them one with, being conformed to, Jesus as members of His mystical Body and, in Him, adopted sons of God in the only-begotten Son. 
So, People of God, be well aware of what and where your treasure is: the pearl of great price that you have received is the Gift of the Spirit of Jesus Who makes you into a member of the Body of Christ, in Him and with Him a child of God the Father; that is the treasure you have to protect above all, and make full use of while you can.
So great is that dignity bestowed upon all made one with and in Christ, that Jesus went on to say, as you heard:
Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
That is a measure of your dignity, People of God!  A dignity not given to enable you to boast before men, but one that should impel you to most humbly give thanks, constant thanks indeed, to God, whilst at the same time, moving you to wholeheartedly acknowledge before Him your unworthiness.
Such is your dignity; what then is your worth?  Listen again.
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.
One of these little ones who believe in Me: that is what I just mentioned when I spoke of the Gift received moving you to wholehearted awareness of your unworthiness; because, in that revelation, awareness, of personal unworthiness, believers become humble as little children before God and Jesus gives a most dire warning to any who would harm, bring down, such humble believers.  That, dear People of God and true disciples of Jesus, is your worth in His eyes.
Now, however, it is time to give attention to the warning given, not only to others, but to our own selves; because, as I said, this gift of the Spirit making you a member of the group whom Jesus addresses with the word ‘us’, is not simply a pearl bestowed on you, but a treasure entrusted to you, to be guarded, protected, and used for Him Who bestowed it.  Therefore, Jesus warns us, and all of His disciples, that each of us can become an obstacle to ourselves if we do not exercise proper self-discipline:
          If your hand, if your foot, causes you to sin, cut it off.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
And the reason He gives for this is well known: It is better to enter into life, into the Kingdom of God, maimed or lame, than to fail to enter there; because nothing could possibly compensate for such a failure, such a loss.
Notice, however, People of God, that here, Jesus does not speak directly about the joys or the blessings of heaven, He limits Himself to warnings against possible failure to attain such fulfilment.  Today, such personal warnings are frequently interpreted as degrading threats, and human pride is such that those thus afflicted are rarely willing to imagine themselves as being moved by any words other than what are admirable and capable of inspiring the highest and best of the natural endowments of those who hear them.  Jesus, however, we should note, is not interested in opinions, vanities, or imaginations of men, He is entirely centred on the facts of life, and the realities, involved: the facts of life, both earthly and eternal.  Therefore, He does not try to cajole with flowery words and attractive prospects; instead, Jesus speaks in the way that penetrates deepest into the psyche of all human beings, who, despite the vanity of their proclaimed aspirations, are weak, ignorant, and short-lived: He speaks of a supremely great threat to our well-being, one which cannot be ignored, hell.  And He does not just leave open the possibility of that which moderns so fear to mention or think about that they can only scoff whenever it might be forced upon their attention.  No, Jesus emphasises the nature of this threat -- not only once but twice -- with words that paint an indelibly powerful and fearsome image for all who consider them -- saying that it is indeed possible for us:
To go to Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire --- where 'Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' 
People of God, what the prophet at the distance of hundreds of years could lovingly, beautifully, and even opulently describe as:
A feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees (Isaiah 25:6),
has been set before us in today’s Gospel and it reads like an eve-of-battle dispatch from the front line.  Perhaps the consoling message of your dignity, of the treasure that has been given you whereby you are one with Christ, provokes heartfelt gratitude in you; or it might be the awesome message of the worth of all who are children of God that inspires you with a confidence and trust not naturally part of your human make-up. However, when battle starts and you find yourself undergoing trials and temptations of whatever sort, let the warning of Jesus rise uppermost in your mind and sink deepest into your heart; for though proud people of this world hate/fear such warnings and pretend to despise them, nevertheless, for a sincere Christian they can be a vital source of clear understanding and insurmountable strength, enabling us to walk securely and steadfastly along the ways of Jesus with calm trust and self- abandonment despite the threats of any powers of evil arrayed against us.
How blessed is the man who fears to do wrong!  But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.           (Proverbs 28:14)

Saturday, 19 September 2015

25th Sunday (Year B) 2015

 25th. Sunday, Year (B)
(Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16 – 4:3; Mark 9:30-37)

If anyone wishes to be first he shall be last of all and servant of all.
One of the high points – perhaps the high point – of the O.T. revelation of God is to be found in the book of the prophet Isaiah, where we read (44:6 and 48:12):
Thus says the Lord: I am the first and I am the last; there is no God but Me.  
Listen to Me, Jacob, Israel: I am He, I am the first and I am the last.
Many most reputable modern translations of the Bible change the words specially chosen for our consideration today from:
If anyone wishes to be first he shall be last of all and servant of all;
to,must be’, or even to ‘must make himself’:
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all”;
“If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.”
Those changes are understandable but result in a translation that is not precisely correct.  The original Greek and the authoritative Latin translation are perfectly clear and, following them closely, our more literal Church translation gives us a truly accurate understanding in very close accordance with both traditional Catholic theology and Christian spiritual teaching.
The difficulty for some modern attempts to appreciate these words is Jesus Himself, so deeply loved but also reverentially feared; and in this instance we can appreciate why His disciples had such feelings in His regard.   The words of Jesus are, first of all, and most literally, a statement of sheer fact, and as such a warning for those He most specially loved: He was not commanding, yet neither was He merely offering teaching for their consideration and subsequent acceptance; His words were, first of all -- I repeat -- a warning for immediate attention, retention, and adoption:
‘Whoever, as My disciple, wills to become truly first, will be – that is, My Father will make him become in the achieving of his God-given aspiration -- last of all and servant of all.’
Jesus claimed to be first in the divine sense when He said to the Jews:
It is My Father Who glorifies Me, He of whom you say, ‘He is our God’.  Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.”  (John 8:54, 58)
But at the Last Supper (John 13:13), while asserting Himself to be -- humanly speaking-- first with regard to His disciples:
            You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am;
nevertheless showed Himself last in their regard by His ceremonial washing of their feet, before finally allowing Himself to be made last of all men when Isaiah’s prophecy (53:3) was fulfilled in Him on the Cross of Calvary:
He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held Him in no esteem.
Notice People of God, the God of Heaven declared Himself to be the first and the last; Jesus, Son of God made man, knowing Himself to be first, showed His willingness to become last at His baptism by John in the Jordan and then, allowed Himself to be publicly made last by His heavenly Father in and throughout the course of His public ministry.   He did not, however, set out to make Himself last; He even prayed in the Garden that His Father would take the cross of suffering and death from Him if He so willed it.  What Jesus wanted, supremely and solely, was that His Father’s will be done in Him.   His own Personal will as Son was to obediently become such as His Father willed Him to be in His humanity.
All that God has made is good; sin makes nothing new and is only destructive.  And so, man’s desire to be like God was not evil in itself, it was only evil in Adam and Eve’s case, by their first receiving the suggestion dripping with venom from the Serpent’s mouth.
In the case of the Apostles arguing in today’s Gospel reading, they were behaving foolishly, indulging a spirit and using a word improper for them to use as Apostles of Jesus, because their childish (Jesus used a child to teach them) aspirations to be greatest were leaving out of consideration the divinely concomitant thought of ‘being last’ which they – as disciples, and above all, as Apostles of Jesus -- would have to appreciate most fully in their subsequent lives.
God is first and last; Jesus, knowing Himself to be One with His Father in Heaven, knew Himself to be first as God:
            I am the first and I am the last; there is no God but Me.  
As man, however, under the limitations of His assumed creatureliness, He willed Himself to be made ‘last’ by His Father in view of the purpose for which He had been sent, that is to save sinful mankind who, along with their chosen lord Satan, naturally will only to be first, embracing but one aspect of the divine truth whose fullness of divine meaning they needed both to learn quickly and appreciate deeply because they were at present flirting with death by childishly denying it.
Such is sin: ever parading itself under a banner of partial truths, ever seeking to break asunder what God has joined together.
And it often happens, People of God, that we are puzzled by, and at a loss how to answer, doctrines put forward with great energy, conviction, and more or less apparent sincerity by non-Christians and opponents of our faith, or simply by Christians in error.  When encountering such difficulties we should always remain calm and absolutely sure in our faith while showing human patience and deep trust in God, bearing in mind that often such troublesome statements are not so much wrong for what  they say as for the way they say it, and for what they fail to say.  Our Catholic faith is a divine gift and all-embracing for the guidance and fulfilment of those who embrace it.

Jesus knew what had been going on, literally behind His back, as He and His disciples had walked along, and:
Taking a child He placed it in their midst, and putting His arms around it He said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in My name, receives Me.”
In the ancient world children were thought little of and frequently much abused.  And at present the disciples -- superficially wanting to be ‘greatest’ seriously enough as to be willing to argue about it without embarrassment -- feared so very, very, much human disdain and perhaps contempt.  Therefore when Jesus took one such person, so insignificant and singularly unimportant in the eyes of the world, and said:
Whoever receives one child such as this in My name, receives Me,
He thereby gave His disciples a picture that was so surprising and yet familiar as to be unforgettable, one that offered them teaching of inexhaustible riches: possible shame in the world’s eyes but an actual promise by Jesus of loving esteem and approval.  Right now, the Apostles were learning how to aspire to being first in the true, divine, sense.
To be appreciated by the world one has to be endowed, either by outstanding talent and ability which is, of itself, a great gift of God given for the benefit of human society but so easily corrupted into self-service and forgetfulness of the Giver of such gifts; or one has to try to make oneself, noticed and significant by cravenly repeating what is politically correct and walking only along socially approved and well-trodden paths; or else by outrageously disregarding normal decency and defying customary opinions and practices.  Such endeavours for personal recognition and renown are, however, of no advantage whatsoever in the Christian life, for God exalts the lowly and humble of heart, while pride -- inevitably and invariably -- separates from the Lord those who pursue it. 
How utterly different, however, is the simple desire for renown before God!!  Why?  Because all self-seeking is ultimately totally excluded by the very sincerity of any such desire.  Renown before God can only be God’s gift – utterly free and un-determinable – given as Love in response to love.  The Apostles and indeed all modern disciples of Jesus must learn from Jesus one thing above all: how, in Jesus and by the power of His Spirit, to recognize and respond to His Father’s initiatives in our lives!
If anyone wishes to be first he shall be last of all and servant of all;
Thus says the Lord and Father of us all: I am the first and I am the last; there is no God but Me.
People of God, we have little time, so we must let Mass proceed with our loving devotion and self-commitment, for the only power that will ultimately change us for the better and for our fulfilment is not the clarity of our thinking nor even the sincerity of our desiring, but Jesus’ example sublimely manifest in the sacrifice, and the power of His Spirit so generously given us in the sacrament, we are pursuing.  May we then indeed be able to leave Church and go out in peace before the world to love and serve our neighbour as the Father wills.



Friday, 11 September 2015

24th Sunday Year B 2015

24th. Sunday of Year B
(Isaiah 50:5-9; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35)

There was a special bond between Jesus and Peter, and St. Mark wishes to show in his Gospel the importance and indeed pre-eminence of Peter among the Apostles of Jesus and ultimately in the Church of Jesus.  So he  makes it clear that Simon (Peter) and Andrew were the first disciples Jesus called to follow Him and that the first miracle of Jesus he mentions in his Gospel – the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law – might be regarded in some measure as a personal favour for Simon:
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told Him about her.  He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.            (Mark 1:30-31)
After that opening presentation of Simon’s importance as a disciple of Jesus Mark did not need to indulge in further special pleading because the outstanding facts concerning Peter’s life for, and witness to, Jesus are acknowledged by the whole of the  New Testament writings. 
Jesus specially chose and appointed Twelve disciples as Apostles to be most intimately one with Himself, to be sent out to preach in His name and cast out demons by the power of His Spirit, and the first of these, when their names are listed, is always Simon Peter.  Most significantly of all, however, it was Simon Peter who was chosen by the Father in heaven to recognize and confess for all the Apostles that Jesus was the Christ, that is the long-awaited Messiah from God for Israel, as you have just heard in today’s Gospel reading and more fully from St, Matthew: 
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father.  And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”     (Mt. 16:17–19)
And Simon Peter responded whole-heartedly to that call; throughout the Gospels he is shown as the one disciple most impetuously responsive and ardently devoted to Jesus.
However, the true nature and full intensity of Peter’s love for Jesus is shown above all by the fact that the Father loved Peter pre-eminently because of Peter’s pre-eminent love for Jesus:
The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father.   On that day you will ask in My name, and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you.  For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have come to believe that I came from God. (John 16:25–27)
And Jesus Himself bore the clearest witness to Peter’s love for Him when fully re-instating him after his three-fold denial, as St. John (not Mark!) tells us:
After (the Risen) Jesus had revealed Himself to His disciples and eaten breakfast with them, He said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”  Simon Peter answered Him, “Yes Lord, You know that I love You.”  Jesus said to him, “Feed My lambs.”  (John 21:15)
It was therefore, out of the heat and glow so to speak, of that intensely deep personal bond between Simon the disciple and Jesus the Master that Peter began to rebuke Jesus when He first told His disciples that:
The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.
Peter wanted to avert such a nightmare, he wanted -- out of love and ardour -- to prevent that taking place, to turn his beloved Master aside from such a tragic course, and so he remonstrated with Jesus in words which St. Matthew (16:22) gives us:
Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to You.”
Jesus thereupon answered most deliberately; not from passion, for we are told that  He turned away from Simon and looked at His other disciples before then turning back to Peter and saying:
Get behind Me, Satan!  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  
That contains an extraordinary wealth of teaching for us who want to follow Jesus as true disciples.
Why, dear People of God, did Jesus – as St. Mark alone tells us – on hearing Peter’s words, yet before answering him:
            Turn around and, looking at His disciples, then and only then rebuke Peter?
It could only have been that Jesus was fully aware of the hurt His words would cause Peter (and Himself) and of the puzzlement and amazement they would cause for the other disciples present.
Notice now the very Catholic issues involved here: Jesus overrides His own natural feelings and those of Peter in order to spiritually protect and guide His other disciples, and for that purpose He most emphatically teaches:
You are an obstacle to Me (because) you are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  
Our present-day Western-world and irreligious society mocks (and too many popularity-seeking Catholics are weakly following suit) the very idea of bad example causing spiritual, real, harm.  In our days weeping women are beyond any laws that may appear too severe for all who deny that spiritual harm can be a supremely serious reality; chaos is to be carelessly condoned (despite the protests of Hungarian, front line, Christian leaders and bishops) if pictures of suffering children can be invoked and brought into close focus.  
People of God, it is not enough to have good intentions, it is not enough even to have warm feelings of human affection in one’s heart, we have got to love and walk in and along God’s way; that is, to know God’s truth, God’s purpose, plan, and will, and to adapt ourselves to it.  For, if we do not seek His truth, His will, we become all too easily Satan’s useful, perhaps even favourite, tools.  Jesus Himself witnesses to that!
Notice, dear people, love is not affectionate feelings nor are such feelings a reliable guide or motive for our actions.  Peter was full of such feelings and full of zeal as well.  No!  We need to have mind, heart, and will united in the search for and service of God in order to have true love.   Jesus, to one addressing Himself as ‘Good Master’, once said, ‘God alone is good’.
Today we are bombarded on all sides by emotionalism: the Pope smiles and embraces a child, he is good!   Women weep for serious matters; if they weep, whatever the matters in question, they are obviously good!  Self-displaying young women and girls are so charming and pretty, and their parents can be so proud of their good looks, obviously they are, if not exactly good, at least they must be innocent.  Children can be badly behaved; after all they are still children and must be allowed their childhood pleasures and ‘mistakes’ (even through to 16yrs. old or more?).
People of God, Jesus could not have spoken harsher words than those He addressed to Simon Peter wanting to save Him, but He spoke them plainly and without the slightest apology.  Why?   Because of the reality, the dreadful reality, of spiritual harm arising from scandalous words and behaviour; and because His disciples must not think like men but as God does, they must not speak as men do but as God wills.
Where are we today, People of God?  Disciples are attacked for thinking and speaking to the best of their ability in line with the teaching of God and the Scriptures, and the traditional teaching of Mother Church in her Saints and doctors: that is too often considered as inhuman.  Today disciples are called upon to learn to please the multitude: to think as people think and speak only what comforts most.
To whom are those words of Jesus to be considered as being addressed today:
You are an obstacle to Me (because) you are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do?

Friday, 4 September 2015

23rd Sunday Year B 2015

 23rd. Sunday (Year B)
(Isaiah 35:4-7; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37)

In our reading from the prophet Isaiah we heard:
Say to those whose hearts are frightened, "Be strong, fear not!  Behold, here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you."
Israel, although conscious of being God’s Chosen People had, nevertheless, a long history of suffering as a pawn in the conflicting endeavours at empire building by surrounding super-powers, and such a prophecy of salvation tended, as the suffering and humiliation piled up, to be welcomed as fighting talk by nationalist dreamers and even used as justification for cloak-and-dagger violence by the Sicarii, Zealots, and other enthusiasts for political autonomy; and that, certainly, was how many Jews in the days of Jesus were inclined to think.   Experiencing continued occupation by alien forces of the Roman State they longed for God to help them overthrow -- through the promised Messiah -- the military might of their hated and despised oppressors. And with such expectations, they were pre-disposed to see Jesus’ miracles, such as His most recent feeding the five thousand in the desert, as evidence that He must surely  be the one they were looking for:
Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you.
However, the reaction of the religious authorities to Jesus, and especially that of the Pharisees who were most influential with the ordinary people, was disappointing.  The Pharisees thought themselves well prepared for God’s coming judgment thanks to their meticulous observance of God’s Law as laid down in the Torah and interpreted by their own oral traditions from chosen elders. As regards the coming of a possible Messiah, they had had a lot of experience with such figures; figures who came and went while they themselves grew ever stronger in their hold over the people.   And yet, Jesus,  was very different from any other ‘popular promotion’ they had ever encountered: He was – so He claimed -- the prophetically foretold Son of Man who actually called Israel’s God His own Father; and His power, shown publicly by some most remarkable miracles, was definitely not exercised for any political ends nor for personal aggrandizement.  Such a man the Pharisees regarded with suspicion, because He was not one of them and quite evidently did not consider Himself or His disciples to be bound by their traditions.   And what was even worse, He did not seem to regard the Pharisees themselves as being purified and justified by their meticulous religious practices, nor was He afraid to publicly take them to task for their failings:
You nullify the word of God in favour of your tradition that you have handed on.   And you do many such things. (Mark 7:13)
And so the prophecy from Isaiah with which we began our readings today was suited to both people and Pharisees … the people who perversely looked for a warrior Messiah, and the Pharisees who needed someone to heal them of a spiritual sickness which they could not, did not, would not, recognize or acknowledge.   It was, indeed, a divinely conceived prophecy proclaiming Messianic help for both the frightened and the blind:
Say to those whose hearts are frightened, "Be strong, fear not!  Behold, here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you.  Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.”
Jesus’ journeying beyond the confines of Israel -- alone in today’s Gospel reading but surely accompanied by disciples as Matthew tells us -- would have been a novel and informal group-learning-experience for His disciples.  Avoiding the militant enthusiasm of those in the Jewish homeland waiting expectantly for the Messiah of their dreams,  Jesus intended to take His disciples towards the land of the Decapolis -- a territory quite recently freed from Jewish rule by the Romans under Pompey -- and by so doing would enable them to understand all the more easily and readily assimilate His words and actions without the agitation of national pride provoking political tensions all around them and especially without the constant need to answer carping  religious opponents prepared to make use of such tensions for their own purposes.  As they journeyed on their way Jesus’ teaching would be supremely suited to free His disciples from the legalistic formalism of the Pharisees and their Scribes, as His unfailingly Filial awareness of, peace in, and responsiveness to, His Father’s abiding presence, together with His absolute confidence in His Father’s sure guidance tended, gradually and irresistibly, to confirm their appreciation of His unique wisdom and incomparable holiness; while, on the other hand, His sympathetic attitude to and dealings with people they encountered on their way -- many of them foreigners (a word Jesus Himself used), along with the relatively few and fragile, perhaps even alienated, Jews who approached them -- proved surprisingly and fascinatingly beautiful, delighting His humble and admiring disciples with a never previously experienced spiritual awareness of such heavenly joy  and peace on earth.
And people brought to Him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged Him to lay His hand on him.
Who were the people who brought the man to Jesus?   Were they perhaps Jewish people living relatively close by and bringing either one of their own or perhaps a friendly pagan?  Did they bring him because he was not able, or perhaps afraid to come to Jesus of himself?  Perhaps we may have someone here in a situation not unlike like that of the man St. James spoke of in today’s second reading, someone ‘poor and shabby’, not attractive, perhaps even somewhat objectionable.
            Jesus took him off by himself away from the crowd.
The man was being given the opportunity to experience a little of the riches being bestowed on Jesus' accompanying disciples: personal closeness with Jesus to overcome his original apprehensions and personal difficulties.
Jesus put His finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his  tongue.
Jesus was doing things not unexpected by the man, thus calming him down and hopefully stirring up embers of confidence and trust.
Then Jesus looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him “Ephphatha!  -- that is, ‘Be opened!”
Here, with that glance up to heaven and the audible groaning of Jesus (most assuredly not something done, put on, for mere effect) are we perhaps privileged to glimpse the man’s introduction to faith in the goodness of God and the saving sufferings of Our Lord?  Anyhow,
The man’s ears were immediately opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly;
and thus he was enabled to join with all around in their heart-felt acclamation:
            He has done all things well!
Now, let us look more closely at Jesus as we see Him portrayed in the Gospel.  He had, quite recently, performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand and then -- in an open confrontation -- discomfited both the Pharisees and Scribes who had sought to accuse Him and His disciples for failing to observe the traditions of their elders.  Jesus had, at that time, been close to being hailed by the common people as the expected Messiah: their longed-for, conquering, leader.  That experience would seem to have been in the forefront of His mind, for He went, straightway, out of Israelite territory and left for the Greek-speaking area of Decapolis, where Jewish expectations and practices were smothered in what could be regarded as a heavy pagan smog.
On the way, Jesus and -- according to St. Matthew -- His disciples, walking the coastal region near Tyre and Sidon unnoticed and free, had been discovered and followed by a woman who pestered Him and His disciples to heal her daughter, whereupon ensued that most memorable dialogue:
Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs.
Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children's crumbs. (Mark 7:27-28)
Jesus immediately recognized that such an answer was far above the woman’s natural capabilities:
He said to her, "For this saying, go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter."
“For this saying” …. Jesus was indeed struck by what the woman said for He never failed to recognize and respond to His Father’s touch; and so He continued walking in this pagan district, going, we are told, towards the Sea of Galilee, but not directly, choosing rather to take a long, round-about, route, leading ultimately to the Decapolis region.  ‘Back home’ He had not wanted to be lionized by over-enthusiastic Israelites dreaming of the Lion of Judah crushing Israel’s oppressors, and for that reason had entered this non-Jewish region; and now, after having encountered the Syro-Phoenecian woman so beautifully gifted by His Father, He decided to continue on this journey through to the Decapolis. Perhaps His Father still had some further purpose for Him there?
Such was indeed the case, because, according to our Gospel passage today, Jesus had been invited by His Father, to perform yet another miracle: this time upon a deaf-mute man, a miracle fulfilling what the prophet Isaiah had long foretold:
Then will the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Jesus always walked before His Father, looked for His Father’s presence, listened for His Father’s voice, and after this relatively short journey outside Israel He brought back His immediate disciples to Israel and God’s Chosen People with greater confidence in, and admiration for, Him Whom they had heard the lips of both suspect Jews and foreign Greeks unite in His praise saying:
            He has done all things well!   
If and when the time would come for them to be sent out to baptize all nations they would be able to recall with deep gratitude and inspiring confidence what they had originally experienced and assimilated in the presence of Him Who had shown Himself to be both intimately at one with God and most sympathetically at ease with and in understanding of, ordinary men and women met on the way.                        
Let us now, therefore, take part in the Holy Sacrifice with like appreciation: humbly rejoicing in the saving presence of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour, and whole-heartedly renewing our personal commitment to Him while confidently acknowledging our calling, in Him and by His Spirit, to live (and die) for the glory of His Father’s Name, and the exaltation of Mother Church despite her and our many failings and faults.