Showing Off or Compassion? The Miracles of Jesus




Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio
23rd Sunday In Ordinary Time
September 9, 2012


“Ephphatha!” The story of Jesus’ healing of the deaf-mute in the Gospel of Mark raises a bigger question — did Christ truly work miracles and if so, what was his motivation in doing so?

There is little doubt, even in the minds of agnostic historians, that Jesus really worked miracles. After all, the disturbance caused by some of his mighty works was in part responsible for his execution. He healed on the Sabbath, breaking a rabbinical regulation against medical “work” on the day of rest. He caused a sensation by raising Lazarus on the outskirts of Jerusalem–too close for comfort as far as the Chief Priests were concerned.

But the question is, why did he work miracles? Did he really care about the individuals he fed, healed, and delivered from evil? Or was he just trying to make a statement?

This Sunday’s gospel helps us answer this question– it reveals that his miracles were truly miracles of mercy. Jesus encounters a deaf-mute in his travels. He does not make a spectacle of himself. No grandstanding, no fanfare. In fact, Jesus takes him away from the crowd, off by himself. And once the deaf-mute is healed, Jesus commands him not to tell anyone about it. Of course, the man is too ecstatic to keep the good news to himself. But the situation makes clear Jesus’ primary and unwavering commitment to relieve suffering wherever he finds it, out of sincere compassion for the afflicted.

  But human beings often have multiple motivations for the very same action. Why should it be any different for the Holy Spirit? Jesus’ miracles reveal not only his compassion, but his hidden identity. You and I may meet a deaf mute and feel pity in the face of his suffering. But the power to bestow speech and hearing is a bit beyond us. It is, however, not beyond Jesus. The Holy Spirit who inspired the words of the Old Testament led the Son of God to this particular man in part because his healing would fulfill the words of Isaiah . . . that God himself would come to save his people, opening the ears of the deaf and causing the mute to speak. Jesus’ miracles are called “signs” in John’s Gospel because they point beyond themselves to the bigger picture the plan of salvation stretching from Genesis to Revelation and to the Savior who is the focal point of the entire story.

There is something else in the story that it would be easy to miss. Jesus begins his journey in the region of Sidon and comes to the Decapolis, on the eastern shore of the Jordan, where he meets the deaf-mute. These regions have something in common: they are both pagan territories. Yes, Jesus comes first and foremost for the lost children of Israel. But his compassion knows no bounds. His miraculous love transforms the lives of the pious and the outcasts as well –tax collectors, Samaritans, gentiles, even the hated Romans!

So James calls us to do no more than follow the example of Jesus. The prejudice which causes us to give preferential treatment to the beautiful people – the popular, wealthy, good-looking and “nice” — may seem to come “naturally” to us who are wounded by original sin. But it needs to be renounced by those who have accepted the healing gift of grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the body of Christ, if there is any preferential treatment to be given, it is to those in greatest need, even if they happen to speak another language and come from a different country. In fact, the unity and brotherhood of different ethnic groups, personality types, and socioeconomic groups in one Church is a sign that this is no man-made sect, depending on merely human forces to hold it together. No, this is a community whose unity is due to divine power, the power of the Spirit. And it is no spiritual club for those who look alike and dress alike. It is instead comprised by people from every tribe, tongue, people, language, occupation, and lifestyle. It is the universal family of God, the Church Catholic.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September 9, 2012

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
The miracles of Jesus never cease to make us wonder. If we were in the place of the onlookers on that day we too would be utterly amazed and our admiration would, like theirs, be unbounded.

And in a certain sense we today actually are onlookers to that miracle, even if at the distance of 2000 or so years. Down the ages those words resonate: He has done all things well, he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.

Even as we read the words of the scriptures as they tell of that great miracle those words seem as if they were our own words; he certainly has done all things well!

23rd Sunday: Healing Love 
We are loved.  If there was any message that Jesus wanted His disciples, wanted us, to hear and understand, it is that we are loved.  We are loved by God.  We are loved by Jesus, the Eternal Image of the Father.  

Usually, when we speak about the Lord’s love for us, we focus on the supreme act of love, His death on the cross.  He took our sins upon Himself and let them die with Him so that we might have life with Him. “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sins upon that cross,” we sing in “Here I am to worship.”  The cross is the greatest act of God’s love for us.  It is not the only way that we have experienced His love, though.

Benedict XVI: “The Gospel should be lived without compromises” 
Praying is not a waste of time, it does not mean taking time away from other activities in our daily life but is a way to find in God, the “capacity” and “strength to live in a happy and peaceful way”: this was Pope Benedict XVI’s message to pilgrims pronounced during this morning’s General Audience in the square in front of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo.    

In the last audience of August, on the feast of John the Baptist’s martyrdom, the Pope used the saint’s story as an illustration to emphasise that even today Christian life requires the “daily “martyrdom” of fidelity to the Gospel” which involves a “a solid relationship with God” built through prayer.

The Winning Strategy 
To win any war, the three most necessary things to know are: (1) that you are at war, (2) who your enemy is, and (3) what weapons or strategies can defeat him.

You cannot win a war (1) if you simply sew peace banners on a battlefield, (2) if you fight civil wars against your allies, or (3) if you use the wrong weapons.

Here is a three point checklist for the culture wars.

10 Great Examples Of Biblical Prayer 
According to Saint John Damascene, prayer is “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God”. Unfortunately, we often overlook the importance of prayer in our lives, forgetting that every time we pray something happens. That “something” is an outpouring of grace which either affects us or those around us. In an attempt to provide some good examples of prayer, I’ve chosen 10 samples from the pages of the Bible. By studying these examples and incorporating them into our prayers, we’ll be able to “beef up” our spiritual lives and grow closer to the Lord.

The Point of Christianity
The characteristic of the modern age is that men concentrate on themselves and what they can and want to do. This and this alone is what life is about. No outside source can guide, command, or coerce us. Man is autonomous. He is only what he makes himself to be, whatever it is. He does not make himself into what he “ought” to be. The word “ought” has no meaning.

On Being Catholic… 
Alright, so I stole the title from a Thomas Howard book that I read several years ago but it was too appropriate to pass up.

However, unlike the book, which goes into details about what led one of the most renowned and respected Evangelical scholars/authors of our time into the Catholic Church, I will keep this focused on what, at least to me, is the principal concept in beginning to understand what being Catholic is all about.

The Success of the Catholic Church 
It seems to me that there are two pillars of living out the Christian mission: the Sacred Liturgy and one’s particular vocation.  That is, we receive the gift of grace in the public worship of the Church: through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the other Sacraments.  And we take that grace out into the world through our particular station in life: marriage or consecrated celibacy.  For most of this essay, I speak as a married man, though most of what I say can be applied to a religious vocation as well.

Ten reasons to make a Holy Hour of Adoration 
10. “…In this world I cannot see the Most High Son of God with my own eyes, except for His Most Holy Body and Blood.” – St. Francis of Assisi
9. “Each time you approach the Blessed Sacrament remember that Jesus has been waiting for you for twenty centuries; for this personal visit from you.” – St. Josemaria Escriva

8. “A thousand years enjoying human glory is not worth even an hour spent in sweetly communing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina (AKA Padre Pio)

A Lament at the Secular World’s Rejection of Natural Law 
One of the great losses to Western Culture is the increasing refusal to accept that there is a Natural Law to which we may commonly refer. This is especially problematic in pluralistic and secularist societies like the post-Christian West where reference to the sacred text of Scripture is not considered authoritative by many.
Hence, it has been the long practice of the Church, even before secularizing trends to base her witness to the truth not only on Scripture but also on Natural Law.

Analogy of Faith – What It Is and How To Use It 
If you read older Catholic documents you will come across the term “analogy of faith.” What does this mean?

The Analogy of Faith refers to the rule for the exegesis of Sacred Scripture. More precisely, it is the presupposition that whenever a text is obscure or difficult, don’t try to create a new meaning or add your custom twist to it. Rather, read that text in light of tradition – primarily the papally approved Doctors of the Church.

Time Is Short, Eternity Is Long 
September rolls in and summer begins to pack up until next year. I’ve not written an editoral for a while and there are a number of scattered items on the proverbial table that I’ve been wanting to comment on. Here is my attempt to combine the two into a semi-coherent editorial post. If I fail, just remember: I didn’t build this.

When Was the Book of Revelation Written? 
Most scholars today think that the book of Revelation was written around the year A.D. 95, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian.
Historically, though, many thought it was written earlier than that, and there is a surprisingly strong case that the book was written in the late A.D. 60s or the early part of A.D. 70. Let’s take a quick look at the evidence . . .

True Religion and the Law of God 
“The law of God is his Word that guides man along the path of his life. It causes him to go out of his egoism and conducts him to the land of his true liberty and life.”
                            — Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, September 2, 2012.
During this past summer, the Holy Father has limited himself to brief audiences and statements. By all accounts his health has not been too good. Yet, even when he says only a few paragraphs, what he says is worth reading. Sunday’s Angelus, which is traditionally quite short, began with a reference to the Gospel of the Sunday. The law of God is a theme found in Hebrew religion. In Christianity it finds its completion “in love.” The law of God is His Word that guides us along the path of our lives. It leads us out of the “slavery of our egoism.” It teaches us “true liberty.”

The Value of Philosophy
True philosophy throws light on all other forms of knowledge, revealing their relation to each other…with philosophy underpinning them all. Especially does it help in the study of sacred theology, the supreme science based on God’s special revelation to the human race.

Glimpses of the Devil: Grappling with Human Evil 
“If the devil doesn’t exist, but man created him, he has created him in his own image.”
                   -Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

I know – the title doesn’t exactly promise an easy read.  I apologize in advance.

Marian Tech Resources to Help Know, Love & Share the Blessed Mother 
As we celebrate September, a month dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, we observe three feasts this month that call us into a more devoted relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary. This month, we celebrate:
September 8 – The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
September 12 – The Most Holy Name of Mary
September 15 – Our Lady of Sorrows
I love Our Lady, and I also love technology. I thought I’d share a few “tech tools” — but also some “old fashioned” ones — for you to know, love and share Mary. Enjoy!

Five Ways to Show Catholic Courage at Work
Do we ever stop to consider how many times a day our thinking and actions about our Catholic faith are influenced by a misguided concern for what others think of us?
During the day, how many times have we missed opportunities to stand up for Christ or share our faith?  Is it the conversation we avoid with a troubled co-worker?  Is it our refusal to publicly make the Sign of the Cross and say a blessing over our meals?  Is it our reluctance to stand up to someone who is attacking the Church?  How about the person who is quietly curious about the Catholic faith and is only waiting on an invitation to attend Mass with us?

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