09Feb 09 February. Friday of Week 5

1st Reading: 1 Kings 11:29-32; 12:19

The prophet Ahijah announces the breakup of David’s kingdom

About that time, when Jeroboam was leaving Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Ahijah had clothed himself with a new garment. The two of them were alone in the open country when Ahijah laid hold of the new garment he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. He then said to Jeroboam: Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “See, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and will give you ten tribes. One tribe will remain his, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

Responsorial Psalm (from Ps 81)

Resp.: I am the Lord your God; listen to my voice.

Let there be no foreign god among you,
no worship of an alien god.
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you from the land of Egypt. R./

But my people did not heed my voice
and Israel would not obey,
so I left them in their stubbornness of heart R./
to follow their own designs.

O that my people would heed me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
At once I would subdue their foes,
turn my hand against their enemies. R./

Gospel: Mark 7:31-37

Jesus cures a deaf and dumb man, and the people are amazed as his power

Jesus returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”


His transforming power

Today’s first reading tells of a kingdom being rent asunder, but the gospel suggests how wellbeing may be regained. The physicality of Jesus’ contact with people is mentioned by Mark, who tells us that in order to cure the deaf and dumb man, Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears and touched his tongue with saliva, and looked up to heaven with a groan. Jesus’ words and action, even his distress over the man’s disability, manifest how we can help each other to have a better life.

That Mark intends this scene to point to the start of the final age, of paradise regained, is clear from hints later in the text. The phrase, “he makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” is from the prophecy of Isaiah, where “those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy.”
In his work of healing, Jesus gives a hint of universal salvation, something already observed in yesterday’s story of the Syro-Phoenician woman. With joyful spontaneity the cured man forgets the injunction not to tell anyone and announces the good news of what Jesus has acomplished.

In the first reading we heard the tragic story of how the kingdom of David is rent apart, when ten of the twelve tribes will transfer their loyalty from the house of David to Jeroboam. The northern ten tribes revolt in punishment for the excesses of Solomon and his son Roboam, but they will also be God’s instrument for preserving important Mosaic traditions and for advancing the prophetic movement. In that northern kingdom will emerge the first two of the classical, writing prophets, Amos and Hosea, and the paradisal section from Isaiah 35, quoted earlier, seems to come from a northern influence. It is clear that the outsider is not simply converted but brings a richness of insight into the mystery of God which we may otherwise overlook.

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