Vol. 4 No.52

Vol. 4 No.52

Vol. 4 No.52 DoM Gospel Reflection
Mark 7: 31-37
23rd Sunday Ordinary Time— September 1, 2015
By LaVeral Graf

In all the readings for this Sunday there are descriptions and referrals to the healing power of God to open mankind’s deaf ears and mute tongues. The miracle Jesus performed in Mark 7 is prefigured in the first reading from Isaiah. The writer speaks of a God who, when he comes, will open the eyes of the blind, clear the ears of the deaf, and make the tongues of the mute sing. He speaks of these happenings as miracles, and compares them to streams that will burst forth in the dessert, and burning sands that will become pools of water. Similarly, in the Responsorial Psalm for this Sunday we read of the God of Jacob who sets captives free, giving sight to the blind, and raising up those who were bowed down. To summarize, in these first two readings, we are assured that all these miracles will occur because we believe in our God and He, in return, will keep faith with us and come to save us.

In Mark’s gospel then, we see Jesus traveling in an area called the “Decapolis,” which was a non-Jewish area. He is among gentiles, nonbelievers. However, because he had become famous throughout the region for his healing powers, the people brought to him a deaf man with a speech impediment, hoping he would heal him. And He did, using the Greek word “Ephphatha!” which means, “Be opened.” The man’s ears were opened, his impediment disappeared and he was able to speak clearly.

Such a simple little story! Such an everyday miracle. Nothing like the roar of the wind and the scary rush of the waves and whitecaps when Jesus walked on the water and beckoned Peter to do so. Nothing like Jesus rolling back the stone and raising Lazarus from the dead. And yet, this simple little story, when you think about it, is the basis of our very faith and is at the heart of the meaning of God’s grace in our lives.

When Jesus came on Earth and lived among his people, he worked miracles that were so much more than the physical healing of the deaf, mute man, though those physical healings were proof that He was who he said he was. What we know is that when Jesus gave the command “Ephphatha” the man was opened – opened at last, not closed, to his world and to life. Finally he was able to communicate in a way that would make him whole, that would make him become a person. From this one physical experience, we can see that the message from God is that He desires not just our physical openness, but our spiritual openness. We are led to understand that through the healing power of God’s grace, we become open to communicate in a way that makes us whole, when we are opened to the power of God’s grace in our lives.

So how can this miracle be considered so important that it exemplifies the basis of our faith? Pope Benedict XVI says that because humanity is inwardly deaf and mute as a result of sin, God became man in the person of Christ so that we “become able to hear the voice of God, the voice of love speaking to our heart, and learn to speak in the language of love.” He compares the gesture of “Ephphatha” to the Rite of Baptism, when the priest touches the mouth and ears of the newly baptized and says, “Ephphatha” praying that they may hear the Word of God and act and speak accordingly.

To put it in another way, Jesus’ mission on this Earth was to save us from our closed up inner sinful nature of pride, judgment of others, vanity, selfishness…all those vices that God’s grace enables us to overcome. Our ears are opened, our voices no longer have an impediment. We are open to be and to become who God envisioned we could be with the help of His grace. We are no longer alone to work out ways to rise above the baseness of our closed, human nature. God’s grace makes all things possible and truly “renews” us.

So what does this mean for us, if we want to live as opened, ephphatha women? Well, I like to think of a quote from Thomas Merton that Allen Hunt gave us when he came and talked about his book, “Confession of a Mega Church Pastor,” and that is:
“All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you
believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you
will consent to let Him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”

Can we live our lives constantly seeking to be open to others? Do we really hear the cry of the poor? Are we striving to open our eyes and really see what is going on with the people we encounter every day? Are we praying that God will use us to make a difference?
All of these are questions we could ask ourselves to become more open in bringing God’s message of love to the world in which we live. God’s grace will make this an incredible journey, if we ask God to send us the grace to really see, to really hear, to really respond to those he wants us to reach.