Sunday Sermon for September 5, 2021, the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Is 35:4-7a; Jas 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-37

As the world and the Church continue to swirl downward in chaos, the readings for today are an excellent reminder of how we must carry ourselves as we move forward.  First, and most importantly, we are told in the first reading: God is here; He has everything under control.  This is necessary for all of us, but in the first reading it is directed especially to those who are frightened.  There is a promise, not only that the Lord comes with vindication, but with divine recompense He comes to save us.

We might wonder: if this is true, where is the Lord?  Why can’t I see Him or feel Him?  We must remember that God is always with us.  This is the promise our Lord made.  Second, God is the Lord of all; He has everything completely under control.  It is true that things seem out of control right now, but that is because humanity has chosen that.  Even though we are out of control, God is not.  He is allowing us to see the consequences of our choices. 

Why, if God loves us, would He allow such a thing?  In part, the problem comes from the mantra we have all heard thousands of times: God loves you; God is merciful.  It is absolutely true that God loves us and that He is merciful, but this has been interpreted as “I can do whatever I want and God is okay with it.”  Such an interpretation has nothing whatsoever to do with either God’s love or mercy.  So, God is allowing this so we begin to understand what real love and real mercy are.

Because we live in a society that tells us that all that matters is what I want and that each of us can have our own truth, many have rejected God’s truth.  This way of thinking is what leads to the false notions of love and mercy.  “Since I can define my own truth, this is what it means to me.”  The problem is, it is not what it means to God.  Also, since we are made in the image and likeness of God Who is truth and love, we are called to conform ourselves to Him rather than try to create a new truth and a new kind of love.

For this reason, God is using the present circumstances to open our hearts and minds to His truth and His love.  If we look at today’s Gospel reading, we hear about our Lord taking aside the man who was deaf and dumb.  Jesus put His fingers in the man’s ears, then He spit on the man’s tongue to bring about the man’s healing.  This is the only time we are told that our Lord did such a thing and, upon hearing it, most people would probably find it rather gross and distasteful (no pun intended).  Our Lord, being God, could have healed this man in any way He wished, but clearly knew that spitting on his tongue would be the best way to heal the man. 

Fast forward to today.  Clearly, our Lord knows our present circumstances, and those to come, are the best way to open our hearts and minds.  If there was a way that would be more effective, that is what He would do.  Therefore, although we may find what is happening to be rather gross and distasteful, we must see it as the way God has chosen to heal us.

This healing will be for those who want it.  This means many people with various backgrounds are going to be healed.  With minds and hearts opened, they will want to serve the Lord.  This is where the lesson of the second reading becomes critical for us.  We cannot judge the people whom God has chosen.  Some may be rich and some poor; there will be people of different races and languages; there will be people with a variety of backgrounds and abilities.  We must accept one another in charity and work together to bring about the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart. 

It appears that this victory will happen in an instant.  As it says in the first reading: “streams will burst forth in the desert.”  We will see everything transform from being very evil to being very wonderful.  Until then, things are going to look pretty bleak.  In the meantime, our faith, hope, and charity are going to be tested and, hopefully, proven.  What will be of utmost importance is to keep our hearts focused on Jesus and Mary.  This will keep us at peace in the midst of the chaos.  The fruit of the purification of our faith, hope, and charity will be the absolute conviction that the Lord is in our midst and comes to save us!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit