Ponder the mystery of Jesus' travels


23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 9, 2012
Isaiah 35.4-7 | Psalm 146 | James 2.1-5 | Mark 7.31-37

Ralph Himsl

September 3, 2012

In addition to a touching demonstration of the mystery of the healing power of Jesus, (more about that later), the Gospel for today has several mysteries.

I have many times read of this trip in Jesus' travels without paying attention to its details. But curiosity stirs at last and starts with the questions: what about the rambling route of this journey - 40 km north from the coastal city of Tyre on the Mediterranean to Sidon also on the coast and then southeast to the Decapolis?

Depending on how far he ventured into the Decapolis - a total distance of about 100 to 140 km. Anyways (a quaint term used by a friend), what about this trek and the Decapolis?

To understand the peculiarity of this route, imagine going from Vegreville to Edmonton by way of Wetaskiwin. Telling someone of this ramble would earn a question: How come?

He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak. -

'He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.'

Mark 7.37

One commentator opines that the author of the Gospel may not have known the geography of the area. On the other hand, the Vegreville-Wetaskiwin-Edmonton hypothesis suggests a simple explanation: Jesus may have had a purpose consistent with his mission in taking this out-of-the-way sojourn.

Yet another possibility: I like to think that Jesus' abundant personality had place for a deep human curiosity and a rich sense of humour. He might have said to his companions, "I've often heard travellers speak of Sidon. I wonder what it's like. Let's check it out."

Whatever the reason, the Gospel text says Jesus "went" by way of Sidon. It bears remembering that this bland word "went" obscures a stern reality of the times: He and his companions would walk those kilometres, every step of the way, you might say.


The Greeks gave us the word "Decapolis." It means "10 cities" and identifies an area, for the most part, south and east of the Sea of Galilee.

We recognize two of the cities because of current affairs. At the northern edge of the historic Decapolis lies Damascus, capital of Syria and to the south, Amman, capital of Jordan. In biblical times that city bore the grand name, Philadelphia.

In all his ministry, Jesus rarely went out of the cities and countryside inhabited by the Jews - from the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River on the east, to the Mediterranean on the west.

But today's Gospel ignores Greek or Jew. It tells of his meeting and healing of a deaf-mute citizen of the world, one from the Decapolis. Jesus sighs, and utters the word ephphathah, "be opened." As it happened to this man on hearing the word of Jesus, may it so happen to all of the faithful in all times.

A last puzzle: Jesus ordered the people to tell no one of what they had seen. Why? How about this: Jesus saw their wonder, joy and enthusiasm, that their euphoria craved the telling. He enjoyed the sight.

(Ralph Himsl: luimeme@telusplanet.net)