Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
September 05, 2021
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.








O God, by whom we are redeemed and receive adoption,
look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters,
that those who believe in Christ
may receive true freedom
and an everlasting inheritance.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading Is 35:4-7a

Thus says the LORD:
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.
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.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 146:6-7,8-9,9-10

R. Praise the Lord, my soul!

The God of Jacob keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.

The LORD gives sight to the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers.

The fatherless and the widow the LORD sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations.

Second Reading Jas 2:1-5

My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes
comes into your assembly,
and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in,
and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes
and say, “Sit here, please, ”
while you say to the poor one, “Stand there, ” or “Sit at my feet, ”
have you not made distinctions among yourselves
and become judges with evil designs?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world
to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom
that he promised to those who love him?

Alleluia Cf. Mt 4:23


Gospel Mk 7:31-37

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Reflection Questions

      1. What word do you have for those whose hearts are frightened?

      2. Does partiality or distinction affect any of your relationships?

      3. How might your hearing and speaking be more open?

Catena Nova

What does it mean that God the Creator of all things, when He willed to heal the man who was deaf and dumb, put His fingers in the man’s ears, and, spitting, touched his tongue?  What is signified by the Fingers of the Redeemer, if not the gifts of the Holy Ghost?  And this is the reason why He said in another place, when He had cast out a devil: If I by the finger of God cast out devils, doubtless the kingdom of God is come upon you (Lk. xi. 20).  And it is recorded by another evangelist that He said: If I by the spirit of God cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come upon you (Mt. xii. 28).  So from either place we gather that the Spirit is called the Finger of God.  Therefore, to put His Fingers in the man’s ears, is to open the soul of the deaf man to faith through the gifts of the Holy Ghost.  And what does it mean that, spitting, He touched his tongue?  For us the saliva from the Redeemer’s mouth means the wisdom contained in the divine word.  For saliva flows from the head into the mouth.  So when our tongue is touched by that wisdom which He is, it is thereupon made ready to preach His words.  And looking up to heaven, he groaned; not that He had need to groan Who Himself granted what (as man) He prayed for, but to teach us to groan to Him Who rules in heaven, that our ears also may be opened by the gifts of His Holy Spirit, and our tongue loosed by the saliva of His Mouth, that is, by the knowledge of His divine words, so that we shall proclaim them.  And then He said to the man: Ephpheta, which is, Be thou opened; and immediately his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed.  And let us here note, that it was because of closed ears it was said: Be thou opened.  And to him the ears of whose heart are opened to faith, there will without doubt also follow that the string of his tongue shall be loosened; so that he may speak to others, and encourage them so that they also may do the good he himself has done.  And here, fittingly, was added: And he spoke right.  For he speaks right who first obeying God, does what he tells others they must do.  Therefore, in all that our mind dwells on, in all that we do, let us pray that we shall at all times meditate according to His inspiration, and act by His aid, Who lives and reigns with the Father, in the Unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.  Amen (Pope St. Gregory the Great).

Just as the divine law says that when God created the world “he saw all that he had made and it was very good,” so the Gospel, speaking of our redemption and re-creation, affirms: “He has done all things well.” As fire can give out nothing but heat and is incapable of giving out cold; and as the sun gives out nothing but light and is incapable of giving out darkness, so God is incapable of doing anything but good, for he is infinite goodness and light. He is a sun giving out endless light, a fire producing endless warmth. “He has done all things well.” And so today we must wholeheartedly unite with that holy throng in saying: “He has done all things well. He has made the deaf hear and the dumb speak....” The law says that all God did was good; the gospel says he has done all things well. Doing a good deed is not quite the same as doing it well. Many do good deeds but fail to do them well. The deeds of hypocrites, for example, are good, but they are done in the wrong spirit, with a perverse and defective intention. Everything God does, however, is not only good but is also done well. “The Lord is just in all his ways and holy in all his deeds.” With wisdom you have done them all: that is to say, most wisely and well. So “he has done all things well,” they say. Now if God has done all his good works and done them well for our sake, knowing that we take pleasure in goodness, why I ask do we not endeavor to make all our works good and to do them well, knowing that such works are pleasing to God?... So even in this present life we shall be happy, this world will be an earthly paradise for us; with the Hebrews we shall feast on heavenly manna in the desert of this life, if only we follow Christ’s example by striving to do everything well, so that “he has done all things well” may be said of each one of us (St. Lawrence of Brindisi).

If you want God to hear your prayers, hear the voice of the poor. If you wish God to anticipate your wants, provide those of the needy without waiting for them to ask you. Especially anticipate the needs of those who are ashamed to beg. To make them ask for alms is to make them buy it (St. Thomas of Villanova).

All our religion is but a false religion, and all our virtues are mere illusions and we ourselves are only hypocrites in the sight of God, if we have not that universal charity for everyone – for the good, and for the bad, for the poor and for the rich, and for all those who do us harm as much as those who do us good (St. John Vianney).

Christ is in Gentile territory and a deaf man with a speech impediment is brought to him. He doesn’t heal the man by a word, as he had healed many, but he uses a series of sign. He takes the man aside, sticks his fingers into his ears, spits on his hand and spread the spittle on the man’s tongue, he looks up to Heaven and groans, and finally says: Be opened! Why did Christ do all this? It has been suggested that because the person was deaf Christ communicated with him by a kind of sign language. This may be the case, but I think it is not the  whole explanation. Throughout the Gospels Jesus not only took particular persons aside and did the sort of things described but he took us with them. He touches our ears and our tongues too, and he groans over us as well and says to us: Be opened. How did the man in the story use his newfound hearing and ability to speak clearly? He used it to praise God. He used it to tell others how wonderfully God had loved and saved him. He used these abilities to point to Jesus and, in effect, tell others to take their troubles and ills to Jesus. We have had such abilities for a long time. In a sense, every time we pray or worship together we proclaim the goodness of the One who gave us these gifts. Don’t you want to hear God’s word as clearly as possible? Don’t you want to praise God and repeat what you have heard him say to you as clearly and attractively as may be? In Mark’s Gospel a special emphasis is given to the praise and gratitude of those who are healed by Jesus. He can’t stop them from talking about it because their joy won’t let them. What about you? Have you never received a gift from God that’s worth talking about? I don’t ask you if you haven’t repeated stories of wonders done for others or by the hands of other believers. I ask you about what you have received and how your gratitude has compelled you to share your own story. Christ speaks the same words to us. Haven’t we, then, experienced Christ’s love, God’s love, personally? The words weren’t “throwaways” but expressions of personal love given as a gift to you. No doubt, you long for so much more. But that doesn’t lessen the wonder of the gifts of knowledge and speech and hearing you have received. The Holy Spirit has taken up its dwelling in you, personally. You have put on Christ as a new garment and a new self. In words and deeds and hands Jesus has reached out to you. Jesus has made you an outward sign of the inward reality of his grace and love. That is what you are! We only have to act out who and what we are! Some people despise their bodies and value only their spirits. But God has taken on a body just like ours and used it to do so many wonders for people, ourselves included. He makes you, body and spirit, the sign of his redeeming grace. Be just that today (Fr. Pius Parcsh).

The Gospel relates the healing of a deaf-mute by Jesus.  For Him, this clearly has to do with more than a physical disability.  It is a parable for the people of Israel, who, in turn, represent all mankind. As the prophets have said so often, Israel is hard of hearing when it comes to the Word of God, which, in turn, renders it incapable of giving a valid response. Jesus does not make a spectacle out of His miracles. Hence, He takes the sick man aside, seeking the middle line between entirely avoiding publicity and helping the people. Physically touching both ears and tongue precedes His upward look toward the Father (in this miracle, the Father acts through Him) and His sign, which probably points to His having been filled with the Holy Spirit. This trinitarian fullness, indicates that the prayer “Be opened!” speaks not only of physical healing but, of effective grace for Israel and for all mankind (Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar).

I am sure that God did not intend that there be so many poor. The class structure is of our making and our consent, not His. It is the way we have arranged it, and it is up to us to change it (Dorothy Day).


Dream On

            Do you have recurring dreams?  I guess we all do. One that I have involves someone I’ve had a falling out with. We were good friends at one time, but a lot of water under the bridge has made us, well -- let’s just say we’re not so good friends any more.  Anyway, I  have this dream where I really want to tell this guy a few things. Trouble is, I can’t.  I lose my speech in the dream, and I can’t get the words out.  Like those dreams where you can’t walk, or you move in slow motion.  It’s like that, except my voice is paralyzed.  You can imagine how frustrating that dream is: something, I guess, like that man with the speech impediment Jesus cured, who was unable to speak plainly until the Lord said, Be opened! (G)

            But there’s been a change of late in my recurring dream.  All of a sudden, I can speak!  And it feels great to say what’s on my mind.  Something, I imagine, like that man in the gospel when he found his voice. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll have enough courage to speak up in waking life too.  I think my dream is getting me ready for that, to be opened.

            Now I’m not telling you this to give you a glimpse of “Me and My Shadow.”  I mention it because I think loss of voice is something that afflicts us all from time to time. How often do you feel you can’t speak up?  And say what’s on your mind, or in your heart?  Either because you don’t have the chance, or you think you won’t be heard, or you feelit would be a waste of time, or you’re simply afraid.  So you remain mute and just dream of such freedom to be opened.

            I hear a lot from people who feel that way in the church.  The current crises, of course, have renewed calls for the long-muffled voices of the laity to have a deliberative say in church governance and not just the usual “advising” -- if that.  When I hear such muffled voices, I think of Bishop John England of Charleston, South Carolina who in 1820 (yes, that is the correct date) who responded to the demands of lay trustees by establishing a House of Clergy and a House of Laity to govern the diocese.  Not surprisingly, his successor undid such a daring venture and other bishops worked then and since to suppress meaningful lay participation in governance.

            I also hear from women who feel their voices in particular have been rendered mute, with church officials asking them to end all discussion of ways they feel are important for sharing in the life of their church. But then I think of women like St. Catherine of Siena who did not shrink from raising her voice to Pope Gregory XI insisting that he return to Rome from the safe distance of Avignon, France where popes had fled for some seventy years.  Or St. Mary MacKillop, who was excommunicated by her own bishop in Australia for her social ideas and her determination to start a new religious order. 

            I also hear from racial, ethnic, cultural and sexual minorities who feel their voice is muted with little say in the church about their particular needs and experience.  Then I think of Fr. Augustine Tolton, born into slavery, who became the first African-American priest ordained in the United States and who founded St. Monica’s Church in Chicago, a predominantly Black parish, and who was described as being “a fluent and graceful talker [with] a singing voice of exceptional sweetness.”  Or Black Elk, the Lakota medicine man turned Catholic evangelist known for his ability to memorize Scripture and for his dynamic preaching.  Both men’s causes for sainthood have been introduced.

            Some of my colleagues who still teach theology have sometimes felt important areas of inquiry have been squelched by threats from church authorities who have the power to silence them.  Then I think of Fr. Yves Congar, one of the greatest Catholic theologians of the 20th Century, who was silenced during the time of Pope Pius XII, but rehabilitated by Pope John XXIII who invited him to the Second Vatican Council where he made substantial contributions to the Council documents, and was ultimately made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II.

            Finally, another voiceless group, of course, is the poor.  Then I think of Pope Francis, a tireless spokesman on behalf of the disenfranchised who has said, “We need to let ourselves be evangelized by [the poor]. The new evangelization is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power at work in their lives and to put them at the centre of the Church’s pilgrim way. We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them” (Joy of the Gospel 198) Or as Jam­es reminds us in no uncertain terms: God [has] chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith (cf. II). 

            Speaking of Francis, he has asked everyone to help prepare for the next Synod of Bishops in 2023 whose theme will be “synodality” in the church. That’s a fancy way of saying all of us, clergy and lay, should have voice in the affairs of the church, walking together (“syn-od”) as we make our way as God’s pilgrim people to the kingdom of God.  Each diocese is supposed to have a phase of this 3-year preparation at the local level starting next month seeking broad input on how to make the church more inclusive and participatory as suggested by the Synod’s motto: “One listening to the others; and all listening to the Holy Spirit.” But I have it on a good source that not much will be happening where I live – and I suspect that will be true in many other places in the United States.  Cue Bishop England.

            Still, I’m sure everyone who found the courage and ability to speak up in the face of their silencers could at one time only dream of doing so.  As in one of the recurring dreams the Bible is full of that the prophet Isaiah shares with us today, Say to those whose hearts are frightened, Be strong,  fear not!  Here is your God… [who] 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 (I). It’s the dream of all who adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ (cf. II).  Who lives and reigns, forever and ever.  Amen.



Intercessions (Peter Scagnelli)

For the needs of the whole world let us pray now to God, who comes with salvation to make us strong and cast out our fear.

For God’s holy church: May it be an instrument of Christ’s compassion and healing for all in need.

For the church’s growth in authentic witness to Christ: May its priorities mirror God’s own preferential love for the poor.

For leaders of nations: May they cooperate to advance world peace and to reduce anxiety and fear.

For those who control the world’s resources: May God turn their attention to the needs of the poor.

For victims of discrimination and prejudice: May they be accorded the respect to which their human dignity is entitled.

For our growth in sensitivity to those who are disabled: May our community be in every way accessible to all who seek the Lord.

For all who work with the handicapped and for all they serve: May their care for each other be a source of mutual enrichment and joy.

For all those gathered today in the name of the glorious Lord Jesus: May no one who comes among us experience discrimination or rejection.

For the dead: May they inherit the kingdom promised to those who love God.

God of power and compassion, in Christ you reveal your will to heal and to save. Open our ears to your redeeming word and move our hearts by the strength of your love, so that our every word and work
may proclaim as Messiah Jesus the Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen (ICEL; 1998).



God hath done all things well:  He maketh the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.

Lord’s Prayer

Let us pray with lips opened by faith in the words that Jesus taught us...

Spiritual Communion

Glorious Lord Jesus Christ, we adhere to you in faith, grateful for the gift by which our ears have been opened to hear your Word, and our mouths to proclaim your praise.  Be with us now through the outpouring of your Spirit, renew our courage, and prepare our hearts for the time when we will be able to enjoy once more the Communion of your Eucharist in the Body of the church.



Closing Hymn (Marty Haugen)

Healer of our ev’ry ill,
light of each tomorrow,
give us peace beyond our fear,
and hope beyond our sorrow.

You who know our fears and sadness,
grace us with your peace and gladness,
Spirit of all comfort: fill our hearts.

In the pain and joy beholding
how your grace is still unfolding,
give us all your vision: God of love.

You who know each thought and feeling,
teach us all your way of healing,
Spirit of compassion: fill each heart.

Give us strength to love each other,
ev’ry sister, ev’ry brother,
Spirit of all kindness: be our guide.