Passages: 2 Corinthians 7:4-16; Mark 7:31-37
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Every time I go on social media or turn on the television I can’t help but sigh. I sigh when I read stories of senseless killings; I sigh when I see the comments people make towards each other based on personal opinions and politics. In life, I sigh when I get a phone call of families in pain; I sigh when I see the people I love living unhealthy lives separated from the Communion of God. We have all sighed whenever we have faced pain and misfortune because to sigh is a natural expression of emotion when we feel hopeless and helpless. Yes, there are times when we sigh out of relief or joy, but more often than not, we sigh out of lack of words, when we feel that we can’t do anything. In the Gospel of Mark, we see Jesus’ sighing right before he heals a man who is deaf and mute.
Much like last week, the emphasis on Jesus’ behavior apart from his healing’s and teaching’s have a deep level of revelation to who God is for us. It may seem strange that Jesus would sigh, after all sighing feels defeatist or hopeless. So how do we understand when we read that Jesus, the Son of God paused, looked up to heaven, and sighed?
This expression of deep emotion says more than words. My dear brothers and sisters, God our Father, the Son and Holy Spirit is a God of compassion and love – who created humanity to be blessed, fruitful and in communion with Him. He did not create us to suffer and be in pain. But when sin entered this world, when we freely chose to break our communion with Him, we entered into a cursed reality, where sickness, pain and death exist. However, despite our choices and frailty, God’s love remained for us and continues to remain for even the worst of us sinners. As we read in Ezekiel 33:11 – “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” And again “God did not make death, and takes no pleasure in the destruction of any living thing; He created all things that they might have being (Wisdom of Solomon 1:13) Death and sickness of every kind is the consequence of sin and so when Christ sighs, in the Gospel of Mark, he is sighing at the pain and suffering of the man standing in front of him just as He sighs at the pain of all humanity: of you and of me as we stand in front of Him at the Holy Altar. Because God sighs and despairs when He sees that we choose sin over His love; God suffers when we deny Him, deny our purpose and live lives of sinfulness, just as a parent suffers when a child ignores their guidance and as a result gets sick or hurt. However, sin does not have the final verdict over us. Though Christ sighed to show his compassion towards us, He continued to heal that man saying “Ephphatha!” (Be Opened) because Christ is also ultimately the one who will heal us and free us from all sin and the results of sin.
He will open our eyes, our mouths, and all the bindings of our life just as He healed the suffering of the man in today’s Gospel. Christ healed us and freed us when He willingly suffered and was crucified upon the Cross – Christ Jesus personally answered the penalty of sin so that we would again be able to enter into communion with God because creation was not created to be separated from its creator. My dears, that is why Jesus sighs. When Jesus sighed, he reveals to us that God knows our condition yet, he sighs not out of defeat but out of compassion because He has overcome that which brings suffering and separation from communion with God.
My dears, we each were created to be in communion with our loving God who gives us direction, purpose and love. That doesn’t mean that we will not have occasion to sigh; nor does it mean we will not suffer in this mortal life. However, when we look at our lives, when we look at the choices we have made or the paths we have crossed, let us ask ourselves: do our lives break communion with God, do we constantly choose sin, has our life made us blind and mute? We call out to God to heal us and have compassion but we do not answer when He calls us to love each other, to repent and forgive each other and to live according to His commandments. It is like sitting at home and wanting to be cured by a doctor but never going to see the doctor, never taking the medication and never listening to the doctors advice. My dears, just as our physical doctors see our suffering and provide the means for our healing, even more so God our Father knows our suffering and provides the means for us to be healed. But in both cases it is the same – we must choose to follow and live accordingly.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, let us examine the life we live and choices we make. Let us not feel defeated but know that God sees and knows our pain and offers salvation, healing and love to each one of us, no matter how little or greatly we have sinned, no matter how far we have strayed from Him. Our God is a God of the living and our God desires for us all to live. Therefore, may we freely choose to come to Him, listen to Him, ask Him to open our eyes and ears to His love and commandments so that our lives will be continually blessed and opened. So that the only sigh we breathe will be sighs of joy and relief as the grace of the Holy Spirit guides us towards all that is right, Amen!