Commentary on Matthew 9:32-38
We come today to the end of the section (chaps 8-9) recounting ten miracles of Jesus. The last single miracle described is that of a man whose deafness is arises from his being possessed by a demon. It follows immediately the cure of two blind men, a story which we did not read and which is told again by Matthew in chap. 20. It seems to correspond to the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus in Mark (chap. 10), although there are significant differences.
The man is brought to Jesus by the people. Jesus drives out the demon and the man immediately is able to speak. There is a double reaction. The people are astounded: “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!” The implications of Jesus’ divine origins are very clear. On the other hand, Pharisees were saying, “It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.” Elsewhere Jesus will show the absurd illogicality of that charge.
Stories of blindness, deafness and dumbness in the Gospel always have a deeper meaning. Far more serious than physical blindness, deafness and dumbness are being spiritually blind, deaf and dumb. The Pharisees in the Gospel represent such people and we see it happening in this story. They are blind because they cannot see or do not want to see God at work in Jesus; they are deaf because they do not hear or do not want to understand what he says. And they are also dumb because they cannot speak the words of life that Jesus gives them.
The very same can happen to each one of us. Let us pray today to be able to see clearly, to understand what God says to us and to be able to share it with others.
This section of Matthew concludes with a general description or summary of what Jesus was doing. He was going through all the towns and villages of Galilee; he was teaching in synagogues; he was proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom; and he was healing all kinds of diseases and sickness.
But, behind all that he does, is his deep compassion for the needs of the people. He sees them harassed and dejected, wandering and aimless like sheep without a guiding shepherd – a familiar image in the Old Testament (cf. Ezekiel 34). Then, looking at his disciples, he says, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.” Jesus cannot do it all on his own. In fact, he will hardly step outside the boundaries of Palestine. He needs many helpers.
Today, the situation has not changed. The harvest is as big as ever; people are as lost and rudderless as they have ever been in spite of the great strides in knowledge we have made. Where are the labourers? They are not just the bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters. That is a very narrow concept of labourers. Every single baptised person is called, in some way, to be a harvester, to help people find and experience the truth and love that God gives in Jesus. Every single person, in that sense and it is a very real sense, has a vocation, a call to serve and to build the Kingdom.
What and where and with whom is my vocation?