FROM A READING FOR SEPT. 9, 23RD SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
'They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."' - Mark 7:37

Contrary to popular belief, Jesus' Gospel miracles aren't narrated to prove He's God. They're included in each Gospel to show what kind of a God He is.

The original Gospel readers already presume Jesus is God; otherwise, they wouldn't be reading the Gospels. But, knowing the word "god" means different things to different people, our evangelists are intent on sharing insights about God's personality which Jesus of Nazareth demonstrates in His words and ministry.

One need only read the last chapter of Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" to surface his idea of a mean, vindictive god - someone who thwarts any plan of happiness that we humans create.

Jesus' goodness
Fortunately, the Gospel Jesus never conveys such an image. But the evangelists go much deeper than just saying that the divine Jesus is good; they show in what His goodness consists. Sunday's Gospel, for instance, Mark (7:31-37) depicts a Jesus who opens ears and gives speech - a miracle which takes us back to the image of Yahweh which Isaiah paints in our first reading (Is 35:4-7a).

"Here is your God," the prophet announces; "He comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing."

Mark's readers would reflect on how Jesus' actions apply to their own lives, even if they aren't physically deaf or mute.

By now, many of my regular readers have gone to YouTube and checked out Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons' experiment about the "invisible gorilla," which I mentioned in a previous column. The two psychologists presume that no one can see or hear everything. We miss a lot. In the gorilla experiment, most people only saw what they were programmed to see: An obvious gorilla was invisible.

The historical Jesus' ministry revolved around helping us become aware of people and situations which many people never seem to notice, and eventually share that awareness with others.

What we notice
If YouTube existed when the author of James' letter composed Sunday's passage (James 2:1-5), he could have recorded the event and posted it on the internet alongside Chabris and Simon's gorilla experiment.

The sacred author writes: "If a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in...." It isn't necessary to read further; we all know what the reaction to each man will be.

The writer tells his community, "Show no partiality," then reminds them to "adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ." Biblical faith in someone implies you accept that person's values: You're committed to see and hear as that person sees and hears.

Jesus sees neither the fine clothes nor the shabby dress. He sees only a person whom "God has chosen to be rich in faith and [an] heir to the kingdom." We're simply to see and hear as God sees and hears, as Jesus demonstrated through His words and ministry.

Spiritual author Ed Hays summed up the situation perfectly: "Jesus' first followers imitated Him long before they worshipped Him."