Ephphatha! Be Opened!

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

What message does the Holy Spirit want you to hear through this homily? In what way does Jesus want you to be opened?

In today’s gospel, people bring to Jesus a deaf man with a speech impediment. They had heard Jesus’ teachings and reports of his miracles. Maybe they had seen and experienced his healing power themselves, so they bring this man to Jesus and beg the Lord to lay his hand and heal him. See how they lead someone they care about to meet Jesus and intercede before the Lord on his behalf. You and I are called to bring people to Jesus, too, and pray to God for their salvation. This gospel story shows that miracles can happen when we do.

Jesus takes this deaf man off by himself, away from the crowd. Like St. Zachariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, whose neighbors and relatives had resorted to making gestures to ask him the name of his newborn son, the deaf man’s speech problem is related (at least in part) to his inability to hear. Jesus wills to restore both the man’s hearing and speech, and see how our Lord does it: he puts his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touches the man’s tongue. Notice that Jesus does not heal this man through a word alone but through a physical encounter with himself. Likewise, Jesus encounters us today not only through his Scriptures and his Spirit, but through his Body and his Sacraments. The visible Church of Christ on earth and this material world have key parts to play in our salvation. And notice that this deaf man is delivered not merely through action alone, but also through prayer.

Jesus looks up to his Father God in heaven and groans, and says to the man, “Be opened!” (which is, “Ephphatha” in the Aramaic tongue). Behold the intensity of Jesus’ desire for this man’s good, the yearning in our Lord’s prayer. St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans that the Holy Spirit intercedes within us to help us intensely will what God wills, aiding our prayer with what Paul calls “inexpressible groanings.” St. Augustine preaches that the task of prayer “is generally accomplished more through sighs than words, more through weeping than speech.” So remember that you do not need many eloquent words in order to powerfully pray. A heartfelt groan can obtain a miracle.

Jesus says to the man, “Be opened!” and immediately the man’s ears are opened, the man’s mouth opens too, and he begins speaking plainly. The Holy Spirit inspired this story’s inclusion within St. Mark’s Gospel, and Christ’s Church recalls this episode in her Masses all around the world today. This is because Jesus’ healing of that deaf man has relevance for us all. This is reflected at sacrament of baptism. There is a custom of the priest or deacon touching the baby’s ears and lips with his thumb and praying: “May the Lord Jesus, who made the deaf to hear and the mute to speak, grant that you may soon receive his word with your ears and profess the faith with your lips, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.” This tradition is called the Ephphatha Rite. The story of Jesus curing that deaf man is meant to make us consider: how is the Lord wishing me, commanding me, to be opened?

Today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah proclaims that our God comes to save us, to clear the ears of the deaf and cause the tongues of the mute to sing. But this reading begins by saying “to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!” Do not be afraid of what our Lord wishes for you. Be strong and fulfill his command. Ephphatha! Be opened! But in what way does Jesus want you to be opened? Would he open your ears to somehow listen, or open your mouth to somehow speak, or open your heart to feel somehow, or open your mind to somehow think anew? The Holy Spirit can tell you.

Perhaps, like St. James talks about in today’s second reading, you are called to be more open to respecting and caring for the poor. Or perhaps there’s a person in your life whom you’ve been overlooking, neglecting someone you are called to be more open to. Maybe Jesus would take you off by yourself, away from the crowd, to be open to more daily prayer, or calling to follow him more closely in your vocation.

After curing the deaf man, Jesus ordered that the miracle be kept secret (for the time was not ripe for it to be shared). Yet the more he commanded this, the more they proclaimed it. Now we are commanded to share the Good News with others, and yet we are often silent. Perhaps Jesus wants you to be open to speaking with other people about your Faith. Maybe invite a non-Catholic person you’re close to to attend RCIA, which begins at St. Paul’s on September 16th.

I do not know in what particular way God desires you to be opened. But I believe that Jesus Christ, who “has done all things well,” who succeeded in making even the ears of a deaf man hear him, can surely tell you his will through the Spirit.

One Response to “Ephphatha! Be Opened!”

  1. pussywillowpress Says:

    I’m praying for the grace to be open to God, to His will & in relationships. Thank you :).

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