You are the answer to your own prayer – Tuesday, 14th Week in ordinary time – Matthew 9:32-38
We have come to tenth and the last of Matthew’s collation of the miracles of Jesus in chapters eight and nine. In Chapter ten we will look at the second of Jesus’ discourses, the mission discourse. But on careful following of the readings taken for the liturgy at Holy Mass you would have observed that the ninth miracle has been dropped.
The healing of the two blind men found in verses 27 -31 is repeated again in Chapter 20 of Matthew’s Gospel and seems to correspond to the healing of Bartimaeus, the blind man in Mark 10. This text will also be taken up as the Gospel for the fourth Sunday in Lent.
For now, we focus on the tenth miracle and there is much to reflect and ponder. While the miracle seems straight forward yet noteworthy, what follows is what will keep our lives nourished and strengthened. Remember that God speaks not just through miracles but through every encounter and event; positive or negative.
The miracle in today’s Gospel is the second such miracle, in the ten-part collation of miracles, that Matthew mentions a demoniac. When you read the Gospel of Mark, you will realise that Mark is unapologetic of Jesus’ battle against satan and the very first chapter has a man with an unclean spirit sitting in the very synagogue that Jesus was. (Mark 1:23). For those who think that the name of satan is merely a way we scare our children into submission; the battle against satan is real and constant.
We are told that the healing of the mute demoniac wins the favour of the crowds. “Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.” But such high praise for Jesus simply turns the ire of the Pharisees against him. “It is by the ruler or demons (that) he casts out the demons,” This is not just a matter of sour grapes, this is deadly venom being spit out of a cobra.
How often have good people been destroyed in our Church by so called ‘holy people’ who are jealous. The Acts of the apostles uses the word ‘jealous’ several times to refer to the hostility against the ministry of the Apostles. The hate poured out by the Pharisees is an opportunity for us to examine our own motivation in serving the Lord. It is an opportunity to examine our lives in our dealings with our colleagues, relatives, friends and neighbours whom we have destroyed with our words because we could not control our jealousy. Do not console yourself that jealousy is a venial sin. This is SIN (in capital letters) for this is murder (Matthew 5:21-24)
Observing Our Lord’s response to the hate he faced, can help us deal with hate that is thrown our way. Jesus had the power to call fire and brimstone to burn up the Pharisees to cinder. Yet, he did nothing of the sort. In order to understand this point well you need to keep in mind that the superscriptions to each Biblical text, the very chapters and verses in the Bible were introduced as late at the 1500’s. So, if you really want to read this text as it ought to be read, read it continuously. Jesus’ response to the Pharisees hate must be read seamlessly, from verse 34 to 35.
At once you will notice that for Jesus, this hate does not hinder his ministry. Verse 35 tells us, “He went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, curing every disease and sickness.” Our Lord could not be bothered by petty hate and neither should you. If you know in your heart that the persecution you face is because you chose to faithful to God then carry on! So many good Christians abdicate their posts of service because of a sinful brother or sister who cannot deal with their insecurity. By resigning your post, you have just given your place to ‘satan,’ a post that was allocated for God’s angel.
Jesus’ eye was on his mission not on the opinions of those around him. Scripture tells us in verse 36, “when he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” In this context, Jesus asks his disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest. Our Lord did not ask his disciples to pray merely for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. When this text is used selectively for such a cause, it is disingenuous to say the least. Yes verse 37 could be used for such a prayer but it is not an exclusive prayer for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.
I grew up seeing American posters that attempted to recruit soldiers for the Vietnam war. “Uncle Sam wants you,” it said, in its effort to enroll young men. When Jesus asked his disciples to pray for labourers in his vineyard, he did not rule out the fact that you could be both, the petitioner and the petition answered. You are the labourer that was prayed for as much as much as you are the petitioner of the prayer. You are the answer to your own prayer.