Reading 1 – Isaiah 35:4 – 7
Psalm: 146: 6 – 10
Reading 2: James 2: 1 – 5.
Gospel: Mark 7: 31 – 37.
The message we hear in all three readings today is simply: Ephphatha! That is: Be opened! Be open to the goodness and graciousness of our God.
Christianity consists of two dimensional practices. One, vertical, our interactions with God with our whole heart, whole mind, whole soul and whole body; the other, horizontal, our relationship with our fellowmen, loving them as we lover ourselves. Today’s scriptures are rich with messages for each of us, concerning the second dimension of religion, our relationship with other human beings. Isaiah invites us to be cool when we face hatred, rejection and other prejudices from our neighbors. We are told to be strong and to fear not. Isaiah cries out: ‘Be strong! Fear not! God knows! God sees! God Cares! God comes to save! That salvation’, as the prophet points out, shall be experienced as new sight for the blind, as hearing for the deaf, as healing for the lame and as a voice that can sing for the mute.
Isaiah speaks words of hope to the Israelites in the desert, to those whose hearts are frightened: “Be strong, fear not” (Isa. 35:4). He encourages them to be open to the saving work of God, who will open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf. God will transform even the earth with streams bursting forth in the desert, burning sands become pools and springs of water in thirsty ground.
James speaks of welcome and hospitality, of openness to both the wealthy and the poor. For those of us baptized into Christ, there cannot be any judgment of worthiness of another to be in our company, to be part of our communities of faith. Our call and our behavior is to be open to all. He summons us, not to have any prejudice, or any bad judgment over our neighbors and so show
no partiality to those whom we encounter in our daily life. Sometimes we develop within ourselves certain kind of prejudice against people around us. It is all for convenience. It is all for survival; it is all for feeling secure and safe; it is all for feeling great. Finding a difference in others is ok. Nature is variety. Creation is beautiful because, it has differences. Beauty and most of the time safety and security, is based on differences that creatures possess.
But this cannot be overdone. We are born to make a difference and to be different and to enjoy differences. We are not born to make the difference as a source of hatred and separation and began to hurt each other, by making differences as prejudices. Almost all our tensions struggles and wars come out of such prejudices we hold against or for one another. We lose our peace of heart ; we become isolated; we turn to be negative in our outlook about anything we encounter in life. Blessed is the man and woman who have not blinded himself or herself by prejudices and by unjust ready made distinctions as race, caste, color, creed, and status.
In today’s Gospel by the miracle of healing a blind and mute man Jesus reveals himself as the heavenly light offered to us to be healed from the blindness and muteness nature endowed upon us Jesus’ words to the afflicted man were “Be opened!” He did not say “Begin to hear” or “begin to speak” or even “be healed.” It is simply a sign of what Jesus does spiritually, inside our hearts and minds, taking away the shells and screens that hinder us to see others as God sees them and hears them and the nature that god speaks to us. Jesus’ healing power imported the gift of freedom. A door that had been closed and tightly sealed was now flung open, and a freed man, a hearing and fluent person, stepped forth into a promising future. Anything that goes wrong with our relationship is due to the improper or lack of communication. In this Gospel even we notice a ground of people begging Jesus to heal their deaf friend. Jesus takes the deaf man away by himself an heals him.
If Jesus actions in today’s Gospel reading seem odd to you, you’re probably not alone. It’s not every day that you see someone placing his fingers in a man’s ears or touching his tongue. But then again, this is the one who told his disciples to eat his body and drink his blood, and who put mud on another man’s eyes.
If you want to know what’s behind all of this, it can probably be summed up in one word: intimacy. Not the romantic or sentimental kind of intimacy, but the compassionate kind. It’s the intimacy of a God who loves his people, a God who humbles himself to enter into our wounded, muddled, messy lives so that he can offer his healing and salvation.
By touching this man’s ears and tongue, Jesus singled out the parts of his body that had kept him trapped in isolation. He showed that he knew exactly what the man needed and that he wasn’t afraid to deal with it. And through that physical touch, Jesus brought life back to him. The man was no longer trapped in silence. Now he could hear his loved one’s words. Now he could speak his heart with them.
Jesus is very close to you as well. He knows you better even than you know yourself. He sees the ways in which you have become isolated whether through sin or fear or anxiety or sickness. Just as he signed when he touched the dealf man. Jesus knows your pain and wants to set you free. So he asks you to let down your guard and allow him to come into your heart and heal whatever is hurting.
Today, Jesus will come to you in a very physical, personal way in the Eucharist. As you receive him, open your heart.
And finally, in Mark’s gospel, we hear the story of Jesus healing the deaf man with a speech impediment. Here is when Jesus speaks, “‘Ephphatha’—that is, ‘be opened’” (Mark 7:34). And indeed, his ears were opened and his speech impediment was removed.
Perhaps you have viewed the videos of people who are color blind receiving glasses that allow them to suddenly see color. In each case, the person with new vision erupts in emotion at being able to see. Their lives are changed. Other videos portray people who are given hearing aids and are able to hear human voice and music for the first time. Such hearing allows them to speak clearly as well. These are stirring stories and the aids to sight and sound transform lives.
How do God and the gospel open our eyes, ears, hearts? How are our lives transformed—indeed, made different?
The gospel calls us to see with eyes of love and acceptance. In our humanness, we tend to notice only differences: age, color, ethnic background, sexuality, socioeconomic status, physical and psychological wellbeing, politics. These differences bring judgment. With hearts opened by God, we see every person and our earth as our neighbors, deserving of respect and care. Paul speaks this theme clearly, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). What a transformation there would be if we lived what we see in the example of Christ.
God calls us to hear the gospel with open minds and hearts, and also to speak that message with our lives. May we hear God speaking to us: “Ephphatha! Be opened.” And then, both seeing and hearing, transformed by new sight and sound, may we be catalysts for change in the world.
Isn’t this our wish for so many whom we love? Don’t we want Jesus to open the ears and eyes of those who seem deaf and blind? Some of us may wonder why there are not similar miraculous healings happening all around us, throughout our world today. Perhaps the answer may lie in the fact that, we surrender to a power other than our own. Humility and self-abandon do not come easily to those who revel in the exercise of absolute personal freedom and fierce independence. Yet the power of God hinges upon such surrender. SO with that kind of total surrender to the Almighty let us pray today, that all of us open our eyes and our ears to the Gospel message.
God bless. Have a blessed Sunday.