We are ephphethized people
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 9, 2012 (23B)
By Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS
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Meaningful words have often retained their original language. In the Gospel, we find many words from the original Aramaic. Some have remained in our vocabulary. Alleluia – Praise God. Amen- So be it. Messiah – the Anointed one. In today’s Gospel, “Ephphetha” – be opened.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah announces good news that the Lord God will come to open the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf and the mouths of the mute (Is 35:4-6). Jesus came and commanded “Ephphetha,” “Be thou opened”, and the eyes of the blind men from Bethsaida and Jericho began to see for the first time the glories of sunrise and sunset (Mk 8:22-25; 10:46-52). He commanded “Ephphetha,” and the ears of the deaf heard for the first time the voice of the turtle dove riding the breezes of spring. He commanded “Ephphetha,” and the tongues of mutes started to sing aloud the praises of the Lord (Mk 7:31-35).
It serves us well not to equate healing and curing. Healing is best expressed at baptism, when the priest touches the newly baptized child’s ears and mouth and says, “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May He touch your ears to receive His word and your mouth to proclaim your faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.”
Today’s healing is “hands-on”. The people asked for just that: they asked Jesus “to lay his hands on him.” Jesus did more than that. “Jesus took his apart from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then, looking up to heaven, he groaned and said to him, ‘Ephphetha,’ that is, ‘be opened.’ Jesus groaned. The sick man before him was an impressive symbol of those who have eyes and ears but neither see nor hear. The people bring him the deaf-mute and ask Him to heal him, but they themselves remain deaf and mute. This is also why He had to, first of all, take the sick man apart from the crowd.
Jesus wants to open our ears, and wants us to listen to him. The deepest desire of any human being is to be understood. Mother Teresa talked about that. We are all hungering for love, to be truly cared about, to be understood. Jesus of course is the one who knows each of us intimately, but he also wants us to listen to him. Not so much for his sake, but for our own sake. For our salvation. That is why he opened the deaf man's ears.
We the baptized are ephphethized people. We are commanded to open our eyes to see what should be seen, but there are always things we don’t want to see, and so we don’t see them. We’re commanded to open our ears to hear what should be heard, but there are always things we don’t want to hear, so we don’t hear them. We are commanded to open our mouths to speak what should be spoken, but there are always things we’re afraid to say, and so, we don’t say them.
The world loved and admired Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Not just because of her works of charity, but because she said things the way they were. She was blunt and direct. When she came to the White House in the presence of Bill and Hillary Clinton she talked about the immorality of abortion. Some would call that bad manners. She said, "If you don't want your baby, give him to me. There is no unwanted child. Mother Teresa wants your child."
"Too often Christians have the habit whenever a problem or danger arises of turning to the Lord and crying, 'Lord protect us, save us, fight for us'. How often the Lord must look at us sadly and say to us in the silent language which we could understand if only our hearts were not so deafened by their fear, 'But I sent you into this situation to fight for me, are you not part of the army, the avant-garde of the kingdom which I have sent out to fight for me on earth?'"
Christianity is primarily about the pursuit of the perfection of charity, and not just the pursuit of "my own peace of mind". Many who have forgotten this have been lured away from the Church in pursuit of a more private, "New Age" kind of spirituality that promises peace. Some have remained within the Church, but have become determined to reform theology and worship to suit their new frame of mind. The more our prayer is focused on growing in the supernatural love of God, and less on our own peace of mind, the more deeply will we be carried into the very heart of the mystery of God, who is Love. This love will send us forth with a mission, armed with the fortitude that will allow charity to achieve its purpose. This is the charity that burned within the hearts of all the great missionaries and martyrs of the Church.
Be the change you want to see in the world -- Ghandi
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it - Goethe