Commentary for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Understanding the Miracle

Posted on September 8, 2021 View all Gospel Reflection

The miracle we see Christ work in today’s Gospel, like most of Christ’s miracle stories, can almost stand on its own.  Without further context, we can easily understand that the Lord has divine power at work within Him, that He has unique Lordship over all reality, such that even the elements obey Him, and that He has compassion on the poor, sick, and wounded.  All this alone gives us the ability to see Christ as Lord, and the courage to entrust to Him our own wounds and illnesses, physical or spiritual, with confidence that He already case about our sufferings.

            Yet, there are many more layers to each of Christ’s actions, this miracle included.  There are two details in particular that give us greater insight into what He is about and who He is.

            First, Christ is fulfilling a prophecy.  Our first reading, from Isaiah, prophesies that our God would one day come to save us, and that when He arrived, He would clear the ears of the deaf, and let the tongues of the mute sing out, among other signs.  Thus, when Christ accomplishes these deeds Himself, He is not just taking care of the poor, but revealing that He is the fulfillment of these prophecies.  He is, as the second person of the Blessed Trinity, God visiting His people.

            Secondly, we can take note of how Christ works this miracle.  Jesus has, of course, the power to heal just by willing it, and the Gospels record several miracles happening in this way, healing that do not require any physical action or even spoken word.  Thus, when Christ does choose to work a miracle through some word of action, the action carries extra meaning.  Here, Jesus chooses to heal the deaf man through the use of spittle.  While it might simply seem unhygienic to us today, ancient Christians understood that Jesus was recalling the moment in which God first gave life to Adam, breathing directly into him.  The Lord is not just returning hearing and speech to the man He heals, He is recreating him, giving him new life. 

            This miracle, then, which shows us Christ acting as God, coming to save His people by re-creating them and granting them a new life that heals them from their old wounds, helps us to understand the whole mission of Jesus.  He did not come simply to heal our physical needs.  He came instead to give us a new and healing life together with Him.  We receive this life through faith and Baptism—where we actually repeat this miracle of opening in a ritual fashion—and let God nourish it through Communion, Confession, and the rest of the Sacramental life.  We must always remember that this is the point of Jesus’ life with us, and the mission of the Church today: not simply to address the temporal needs people have for natural growth, earthly healing, and human community, but rather to provide a new and distinct supernatural life.  This is what Christ gave us through His life, death, and resurrection, and it is the only real measure of success for Christian efforts.

            So then, let’s set our sights on the things of heaven, refusing to be held back by merely human thinking, and ask the Lord to complete His work of re-creating our wounded human nature.