Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
What shows us the presence of God? In the Biblical world it was miracles ‑ signs, which pointed towards the emergence of a new Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. This had been prophesied from of old: it was said that One would come, and also that certain things would be associated with this Messiah which would display the perfection of the Kingdom God wanted to establish. Jesus, in both his preaching and his miracles, proclaims that the Kingdom of God is at hand, in his own person. He fulfils the prophecies of the past, as he displays to the people of his own time, and to us, the nature of Gods Kingdom: in it all diseases and afflictions are abolished: so opening the man's ears and eyes tells us two things: first that Jesus is God, present in our midst, and secondly that he calls us into a Kingdom where all is perfect.
Notes for Readers
First Reading: Isaiah 35:4-7
You will notice that in the Lectionary this reading is split into four paragraphs and into sense lines: these give you the structure of the reading, and will help you read it well.
This is a prophecy of great encouragement, offering to all “faint hearts” the promise that God will come to them to put everything right. The images are to call up in the minds of listeners a sense of God’s care and desire for all to be happy and content. This reading could be read with quiet confidence - especially note the gentleness of the phrase “Courage! Do not be afraid.” The words “vengeance” and “retribution” are not to be roughly proclaimed but in the same spirit of gentleness. This is obvious in the promises of the third paragraph; try to get the full expression of the phrases “leap like a deer” and “sing for joy”. Then in the final paragraph imagine the glorious promise of water and fertility to a land that is thirsty and often knows droughts.
Second Reading: James 2:1-5
Compared with many of the readings of Scripture we find in the Lectionary, these passages of Saint James can be wonderfully refreshing for their blunt “down to earth” nature. This is a great example of James putting his message across plainly. He doesn’t just outline a theory, but goes into a practical example to make his listeners perfectly aware of what he is going on about. Today it is “making distinctions” that he speaks against. The first sentence gives the general idea, but then he launches into his example with the words “Now suppose...” When you are reading, be aware of this change of pace, and enter into the description that follows: even use slightly different tones of voice for the words said (without going over the top or “acting”). The last paragraph is a little more theoretical: make sure you underline the words “poor according to the world” and contrast this with “rich in faith.” Enjoy this reading, and the clarity of the message Saint James is conveying.