Lectio Divina: Matthew 9:32-38
1) Opening prayer
through the obedience of Jesus,
Your servant and Your Son,
You raised a fallen world.
Free us from sin
and bring us the joy that lasts for ever.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 9:32-38
A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus, and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.” Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”
• Today’s Gospel presents two facts: (1) the cure of a possessed mute person (Mt 9:32-34) and (2) a summary of the activity of Jesus (Mt 9:35-38). These two episodes end the narrative part of chapters 8 and 9 of the Gospel of Matthew, in which the Evangelist seeks to indicate how Jesus put into practice the teachings given in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5 and 7). In chapter 10, the meditation which begins in the Gospel of tomorrow, we see the second great discourse of Jesus: The Discourse of the Mission (Mt 10:1-42).
• Matthew 9:32-33a: The cure of a mute person. In just one verse Matthew describes the arrival of the possessed person before Jesus, the expulsion of the demon and the attitude of Jesus. The illnesses were many and social security non-existent. The illnesses were not only deficiencies of the body: deafness, blindness, paralysis, leprosy and so many other sicknesses. In fact, these illnesses were nothing else than a manifestation of a much deeper and vast evil which undermined the health of people, and that is the total abandonment and the depressing and inhumane state in which they were obliged to live. The activity and the cures of Jesus were directed not only against physical sickness, but also and above all against this greater evil of material and spiritual abandonment, in which people were obliged to live the few years of life. Then, in addition to the economic exploitation which stole half of the family stipend, the official religion of that time, instead of helping people to find strength in God, to resist and have hope, taught that sickness was a punishment from God for sin. This increased in them the sentiment of exclusion and condemnation. Jesus did quite the contrary. The acceptance of Jesus, full of tenderness, and the cure of the sick, form part of the effort to knit together human relationships among people and to re-establish community and fraternal living in the villages of Galilee, His land.
Matthew 9:33b-34: The twofold interpretation of the cure of the mute man. Before the cure of the possessed mute man, the reaction of the people is one of admiration and of gratitude: “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!” The reaction of the Pharisee is one of mistrust and malice: “It is through the prince of devils that He drives out devils!” They were not able to deny the facts which cause admiration in the people, the only way which the Pharisees find to neutralize the influence of Jesus before the people is to attribute the expulsion to the power of the evil one. Mark presents an extensive argument of Jesus to demonstrate the lack of coherence and the malice of the interpretation given by the Pharisees (Mk 3:22-27). Matthew does not present any response by Jesus to the interpretation of the Pharisees, because when malice is evident, truth shines by itself.
• Matthew 9:35: Tireless, Jesus goes through the villages. The description of the tireless activity of Jesus is beautiful in which emerges the double concern to which we referred: the acceptance full of tenderness and the cure of the sick: “Jesus went through all the towns, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and all kinds of illness.” In the previous chapters, Matthew had already referred several times to this itinerant activity of Jesus in the villages and towns of Galilee (Mt 4:23-24; 8:16).
• Matthew 9:36: The compassion of Jesus. “Seeing the crowds He felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” Those who should be shepherds were not shepherds; they did not take care of the flock. Jesus tries to be the shepherd (Jn 10:11-14). In this, Matthew sees the realization of the prophecy of the Servant of Yahweh, who took upon Himself our sickness, and bore our infirmities” (Mt 8:17 and Isa 53:4). As it was for Jesus, the great concern of the Servant was “to find a word of comfort for those who were discouraged.” (Isa 50:4). Jesus shows the same compassion toward the abandoned crowd on the occasion of the multiplication of the loaves: they are like sheep without a shepherd (Mt 15:32). The Gospel of Matthew has a constant concern in revealing to the converted Jews of the communities of Galilee and of Syria that Jesus is the Messiah announced by the prophets. For this reason, frequently, he shows that in Jesus’ activity the prophecies are fulfilled (cf. Mt 1:23; 2:5,15,17, 23; 3:3; 4:14-16, etc.).
• Matthew 9:37-38: The harvest is rich, but the laborers are few. Jesus transmits to the disciples the concern and the compassion which are within Him, and in paraphrase: “The harvest is rich, but the laborers are few! Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers for His harvest!”
4) Personal questions
• Compassion for the tired and hungry crowds. In the history of humanity, there have never been so many tired and hungry people as today. Television transmits the facts, but does not offer any response. Do we, Christians, have the same compassion of Jesus and communicate it to others?
• The goodness of Jesus toward the poor disturbed the Pharisees. They have recourse to malice to neutralize the discomfort caused by Jesus. Are there many good attitudes in the people who disturb me? How do I interpret them: with pleasant admiration as the crowds or with malice as the Pharisees?
5) Concluding Prayer
Sing to Him, make music for Him,
recount all His wonders!
Glory in His holy name,
let the hearts that seek Yahweh rejoice! (Ps 105:2-3)