23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B (2)

Today’s readings remind us that if sin is messy Redemption involves some messiness and discomfort too. It’s through material realities that we fell, so it’s logical that Our Lord should establish material ways to redeem us, like the sacraments.

In today’s First Reading Isaiah describes a post-Eden world, crippled and thirsting for relief due to sin. The effects of sin go beyond those who committed them; they cripple and wound us all. As Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden the Lord told them a consequence of their sin would be the need to eke out an existence; instead if a plentiful garden the world had become a hostile wilderness and desert. Neither did they face a wild post-Fall world with all the strength they had before, sin wounded them and crippled them. The sign of the crippled healed and the lands bounteous once again were all signs of a Redemption to come in Christ.

In today’s Second Reading St. James reminds us that the vindication, understood as justice, and recompense describe by Isaiah would be an ongoing process that even believers after Baptism would have to remember. Dignity is not superficial. Many times it is not fashionable or stylish. Through Baptism everyone in the Church, rich or poor, has the dignity of being our brother or sister in Christ. Our Lord came to restore a dignity lost by sin, and as believers we strive to acknowledge that dignity in everyone, rich or poor, healthy or sick, baptized or not.

In today’s First Reading we are reminded that the Lord wants to heal us from our infirmities, but it’s likely that the Israelites never imagined Our Lord would want to come personally and do so. God wants to touch us and heal us; we see that in today’s Gospel. By modern standards it may seem distasteful that saliva is involved, but when we consider that every time we celebrate the Eucharist we are receiving Jesus’ body and blood, it’s not much of a stretch. God assumed a human nature because he wanted to come touch us and heal us through human nature. God still wants to touch us and heal us. Today he does so through the sacraments.

In each sacrament there are certain materials, certain expressions, certain dispositions of heart through which Our Lord reaches out and touches us and heals us or strengthens us. When we receive him in Holy Communion we touch God, who comes into our hearts and makes us more like him after he decided, out of sheer goodness, to assume a human nature and become like us. Let’s be thankful in receiving the Eucharist today that Our Lord wants to be close to us, wants to touch us. And let’s examine how our sacramental life is going: Mass, confession, etc., so that it really touches us and helps us to change for the better.

In today’s Gospel the Lord visibly works miracles, and he still does, invisibly, through the sacraments. The water poured on our heads at Baptism cleans our very souls. A few words and dispositions in Confession reconcile us with God and the Church. A little consecrated bread and wine are the Bread of Life. Let’s thank Our Lord this week for all the quiet miracles he continues to work under sacramental signs.

Readings: Isaiah 35:4–7a; Psalm 146:7–10; James 2:1–5; Mark 7:31–37. See also 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.