23rd Sunday In Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: September 5, 2021
Years ago when I was sent to study in Rome as a young priest, one of the first things I had to do was learn Italian. Though I have Italian roots I did not speak any Italian. So, I went to Florence to enter a language school. At this school each Friday evening students were invited out to a restaurant together. The first Friday I joined them. I still could not speak or understand Italian. The other students were all advanced and were speaking and laughing energetically. I could not understand a word. It was a very hard experience because it isolated me and made it difficult to be connected to them. Of course that did inspire me to work hard on learning Italian.
I thought about that man who was deaf and mute that they brought to Jesus. He would have been in virtual isolation from the community. He was cut off from hearing others and from speaking with others. When Jesus touches him and speaks those words, Ephphatha, Be opened, he healed him. It was like tearing down the walls that kept this man from fullness of life. Imagine what it was like for him, now he could hear the laughter, the conversations, the sacred stories. He could hear Jesus speak of God’s love for him. His life would have been changed in such an incredible way.
Ephphatha is a word from the original Aramaic that Jesus would have spoken. As stated in the Gospel it means “Be opened.” The whole mission of Jesus is expressed in those words. Jesus heals anything that paralyzes us, that prevents us from being able to receive God’s love, and that cuts us off from God and others. When we become locked into our own wills, self absorbed, then we become deaf to the word of God and deaf to the cries of our brothers and sisters. Our hearts can become hardened and our spirits paralyzed. Then we need to allow Christ to whisper in our depths – Ephphatha, Be opened.
Have we become so self centred, so self absorbed, that we are no longer listening to the voice of God?That we are no longer listening to people in our lives? Are we listening to family at home? Are we listening to friends? Are we listening to the poor, to the needy in our community and world? Are we listening to the word of God? Like the deaf and mute man we can become isolated and cut off from God and others. Jesus speaks, Be Open, re-connecting us to God and to others. But, we need to go to Jesus, to come before the Lord in humility and honestly open our hearts to receive the healing of Jesus.
At a Catholic baptism of a baby, we have what is called an Ephphatha Rite, coming from this word in Mark’s Gospel. The priest or deacon touches the ears and mouth of the baby and pronounces, Ephphatha, Be opened. We are praying that this baby will one day grow to be able to hear God’s Word spoken to our hearts. That this baby as he or she grows will be able to speak, praising God. In fact, the responsibility of parents is to raise their child who is baptized to learn to hear God’s Word and to be able to praise God.
Are we deaf in some way? Unable to hear the Word of God, unable to hear the cries and needs of people in our life? Have we become so self-centred, so self absorbed, that we are spiritually paralyzed and cut off from the life of God? Then go humbly on your knees to Jesus and let him touch you and speak in your heart, Ephphatha, Be Opened. The healing of Jesus that takes us out from ourselves to truly listen to the voice of God and to truly listen to the people in our life. Then like the man healed in this Gospel, we will be able to hear God speaking to us in the Word and will be able to speak again Praising God.