The 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]

The Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Isa 35:4-7  +  Jas 2:1-5  +  Mk 7:31-37
September 9, 2018

“He has done all things well.”

It’s hard to imagine higher praise for Jesus than what the crowd offers following His healing of the deaf and mute man in Sunday’s Gospel passage:  “He has done all things well.”

This miracle of Jesus fulfills one of the miraculous signs of God’s coming that the Old Testament prophet Isaiah foretells in the First Reading.  Isaiah also foretells that God will make the blind see and the lame leap, miracles that we hear Jesus accomplishing elsewhere in the Gospel accounts.

The Gospel evangelists don’t, however, record that Jesus ever made streams burst forth in the desert, or turn burning sands into pools, as Isaiah foretells.  Perhaps Jesus did accomplish these miracles without word of them ever reaching the evangelists’ ears.  Regardless, we do hear in the Gospel accounts of Jesus working other miracles over nature, such as calming a storm and walking on water.  All of Jesus’ recorded miracles seem to justify the praise of the crowd:  “He has done all things well.”

The sticking point in today’s Gospel passage is what Jesus commands following His miraculous healing:  “He ordered them not to tell anyone.”  Jesus apparently ordered them more than once, because the evangelist notes that “the more He ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.”

Doesn’t this seem like an odd command for Jesus to make?  Doesn’t it seem opposed to what Jesus commands of His disciples at the end of the Gospel accounts:  to go forth and preach the Good News about Him to all the nations?  Doesn’t this command seem contrary to Jesus’ counsel in the Sermon on the Mount against putting one’s light under a bushel basket?  Isn’t Christ our light, so that news of His miraculous powers ought to be told to everyone?

We can ponder Jesus’ command against telling anyone of His miracle in terms of the location of this passage within the whole of St. Mark’s Gospel account.  This passage is found in the seventh chapter of Mark, which has sixteen chapters in all.  The events of this passage take place well before the death and Resurrection of Jesus.  In other words, at this point in time, Jesus has not yet done all things well.  The best is yet to come on Good Friday.

Jesus often shows a shrewd understanding of fallen human nature.  As we heard a few Sundays ago when the beginning of John 6 was proclaimed, Jesus knew that people were often impressed by His miracles for the wrong reasons.  Jesus knew that many people wanted in His day, and want in our day, to make Jesus their king because of what He can do for them.  Through His grace, Jesus can heal us of our self-interest.  He can help us praise Him for the sake of who He shows Himself on the Cross to be, rather than for what He does for us.  Through this form of praise, we can enter into His life and become more like Him.