Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time

A reflection on the scripture readings by Sister Jan Ginzkey, OSB: Isaiah 35:4-7a; Psalms 146:7-10; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37

1st Sunday of the Season of Creation: Seeing with new eyes, hearing with opened ears

The 2021 Season of Creation begins this Sunday and continues to the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi Oct. 4th. We are living in a very critical time for our common home, the earth, and all of creation. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Pope Francis have both spoken boldly imploring the nations of the world, all countries, and all individuals to join in the serious work of saving our planet and one another.

In some of the worst-case scenarios, the earth’s ability to sustain the human population will decrease from the nearly 8 billion now to 1 billion If we continue living as we have this century. The extinction of many species of animals and plants are also predicted due to the increasing intensity of wildfires, droughts, floods, and other forms of violent weather, and more caused by climate change. Our human consumption, exploitation of the earth’s riches and growing disparity found in our social systems, the unequal distribution of water, and food all are contributing to the urgency to change. 

Our faith impels us to act for the common good of all creation. We can’t despair or cower at the enormity of change required to save our common home. God is asking each of us to cherish His creation. The scripture readings today are speaking to each of us.

In the first reading, Isaiah urges the Israelites to, “Be strong, fear not.” God is faithful.  Isaiah sees the work of God in the eyes that are opened, the ears that hear again, in the lame who can leap and dance, the mute who can proclaim. God is present to guide them in restoring the earth to its fruitfulness. The scripture is true for us today.

Our challenge is to look with opened eyes to see where the earth is being healed and renewed by prophetic human action. The women and children planting trees in Africa and in the Amazon region are healing the rivers, protecting the soil from erosion, and healing the lungs of the earth. Can we see the young activists like Greta Thunberg challenging the UN to act now as hope for our future? The conservation groups and forest service replanting thousands of trees that were lost in annual fires are ways to heal our earth.  What are other signs you are seeing?

Can you look and see where God has been acting in your life? Can we trust that God is with us now? How can we show our gratitude for God’s extraordinary generosity to us?

Today go for a walk and really notice the beauty of creation around you. Watch the squirrels, listen to the birds, touch the grass and leaves. Don’t forget to smell the flowers or fresh mowed lawn. God is asking us to be aware of God’s creative presence today.

In the gospel, Jesus takes the deaf person with a speech impediment away from the crowd. Jesus communicates with actions, groans, and gestures that the person can see and understand. Jesus is humble and becomes one with this person. By looking up he indicates that the power is coming from God, whose power is in Jesus. The healing power of Jesus allowed this person to become whole and reconnect with his community. He went forth proclaiming the good news.

Are we ready to pray for the healing power of Christ to be at work in us and through us so that we may hear and clearly speak the Word God has given us to share? Is our speech welcoming to the immigrant or refugee? Can others hear and see our respect, acceptance, and love in the way we speak and act? When we hear gossip, false accusations, or hateful speech, do we remain silent or have the courage to speak our truth in love? How do you and I proclaim the Good News, the Gospel, today?

We are not asked to change others or to solve all the problems that have brought us to this time of crisis. We can each examine our own attitude, our speech, what we choose to listen to and how we act. I believe we will begin to save ourselves and our common home by our daily living of gospel values. Remember the bracelets that many wore in the 1980s, WWJD, what would Jesus do? Let this be our guide.

I would like to end with a poem by J. Janda called The Light.

You cannot change others, no

But you can see them with new eyes

Christ eyes

Who sees all with respect and understanding