23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 9, 2018 (Thoman)

Is 35:4-7a | James 2:1-5 | Mk 7:31-37

“Show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.”

I. I was intrigued by a recent article published in America magazine. It was on the
phenomenon of experiencing becoming invisible as one grows older. The author
is a man in his 70s who reflected upon what it feels like when hardly anyone pays
any attention to you:

  • walking down the street hardly anyone notices or extends a greeting
  • he found himself passed over in group conversations
  • people in a group paid more attention to youth, then older members
  • hardly anyone ever asks how things are in his life

As I read the article and reflected upon it, I found myself asking if I do that. Am
I aware of, and responding to, everyone in a group conversation? Do I
discriminate in my mind about who I will relate to and who will be overlooked?
Do I show preference – or partiality – to some people and not others?
I came to the realization that I had never really thought about how about how
it is possible that some we are around all the time could become “invisible.”

II. Unfortunately there are probably lots of invisible people in our lives:

  • we live in a culture oriented towards youth and so it might be we allow older
    folks around us to become invisible
  • it could those whom we judge to be weak, or some way less able to get
  • those whom we perceive to be physically or mentally challenged
  • or just those whom we write off as not important to us?

Do you find yourself doing that? Have you allowed yourself to discriminate in
your mind about who you will show more preference to?

III. Our scriptures, of course, teach us the exact opposite.
The prophet Isaiah reveals a God who comes to us with vindication. “With
divine recompense he comes to save you.” God comes to open the eyes of the
blind and clear the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a stag and the mute
will sing. Creation itself will be full of life.
And in the gospel we find Jesus doing exactly that: he clears the ears of a
deaf man and his speech impediment is removed. He speaks plainly.

IV. I’m sure you’re well aware that this past week we celebrated the funeral Mass
of Sarah Jochum, an intellectually challenged adult. The whole experience got
me to thinking about how we treat those who are somehow different from the
mainstream. How easy it is to overlook, to “dismiss” someone who is
intellectually challenged. That did not happen in Sarah’s case: she was the
center of incredible love from her family and community. The power of her
impact is evident in that approximately 800 people came to her wake and about
175 participated in her funeral Mass. She touched the lives of hundreds.
So think of what is missed when we overlook others, when we allow people
to become invisible. We miss out on the ways in which they can touch us.
Those who are the deaf, the blind, the crippled, the mute; those who are
physically or intellectually challenged, the poor can easily be written off by
those who are not in those categories.

Think of people you see who dress differently from you, who have purple
hair, who have a ring in their lip, who have tattoos, who may speak differently,
who may just act strange – do they become invisible to us? Do we discriminate
them out of our lives? Do we judge them?

“Show no partiality,” James says. Those who are somehow different,
especially those who the most vulnerable, those who are the poor, those who
are on the fringes of society, those who are on the peripheries as Pope Francis
would say, are God’s gift to us. They are opportunities for us to demonstrate
how much we really are disciples of Jesus.

Sarah Jochum called forth love from her parents, her family and friends.
Sarah – and anyone who could be discriminated against – call forth from those
who are not in those categories to grow in Christian virtue – to expand their
horizons – to open their heart in love and compassion, patience and tolerance.

V. Hopefully our Parish Mission next week will help us to grow in understanding
how we can be better disciples of Jesus, of how we can more fully give witness to
who we are as disciples of Jesus and to the fullness of his gospel.

“Show no partiality,” James says. Be recognizing those who are invisible in
our lives, we see each of us is a child of God. And we learn it is an honor and a
privilege to reach out to those who are especially vulnerable – for in doing so,
we are tending to the needs of the body of Christ.
Fr. Dwayne Thoman