Mk 7: 31-17
We love and worship a God who is a personal. He is alive in our lives and continues to be with us with the assurance He will never leave us. The belief is most acutely seen in our experiences as when we reflect on the plight of the poor. Vatican II expressed this so clearly when that Council spoke about the “preferential option for the poor.” The option of the poor is a concrete way in which our loving and personal God is alive in the lives of those who are either poor in material resources or poor in Spirit.
Our authentic concern for the poor and marginalized is not some political concoction or ideology, or a mantra of political correctness. It is rather a divine directive, one which binds all peoples for all times. It’s as old as the prophet Isaiah: “Say to those whose hearts are frightened, be strong, fear not… The eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared.” God is concerned with the fate of those visibly wounded and peering in from the outskirts of society. God himself directs his servants to search out those who have not. This isn’t ideology; it’s a mandate of belief.
Our second reading from James offers us a more pointed example. He leaves us today with a question to be answered. “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, ”. Which one do we make room for? Which one would we like to avoid? Which one would we be willing to share conversation and a cup of coffee? Which one?
It is not so much that we direct our attention on the rich and famous, giving them preference, but rather we tend to be ambivalent to those poor and lonely. James teaches us this morning that this ambivalence seems to be a universal phenomenon of all who place too much emphasis on the self and not enough on others. Our personal and loving God can never enter a person who is ambivalent to the plight of the poor.
Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so God abhors a situation in which there is a lack of love and concern. For the later, God cannot enter, simply there is no room.
Throughout our Gospel accounts, there is no doubt that Jesus accepted and loved the rich and healthy people, especially those who knew their own wounds and recognized their own poverty. But our Jesus always had time for the poor and the outcast, the maimed and broken, the deaf and dumb. The authors of the Gospels, in fact, spend more time telling us of our Lord’s devotion to the care of these lowly ones than any other issue we cherish as a litmus test of our faith. By all Gospel accounts, there is little doubt that the sick and the needy are at the top of the list. Our Blessed Lord always has time for those who recognize their condition, and brings to them the healing and the grace of a God who is alive and wishes to be a part of their conditions.
Take notice of Jesus in today’s Gospel. He breaks away from the crowd to spend time alone with a deaf man. Jesus draws close, he touches him, he prays. His power shines forth before us. And more importantly, the man once deaf to the Word of God can now listen to the Word of God. The man once unable to proclaim the Word of God can now proclaim.
If we say we are disciples, then what concerns us is what concerns God— the plight of the poor. And today, if we are those who are poor, if we are those who are ambivalent, then let us recognize our situation and let others bring us to the Lord. “Some people brought him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. Jesus took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his fingers into the man’s ears and spitting, touched his tongue… At once the man’s ears were opened; he was freed from his impediment, and began to speak plainly.” Jesus does put flesh on God’s concern for the poor and needy. The preferential option for the poor is of great concern to God, and as disciples of His, it should be are as well.