today's readings are Isaiah 35:4-7a; Psalm 146; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time B Mk 7: 24-37
The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the mute speak. May Jesus soon touch your ears to receive His word, and may Jesus touch your mouth to proclaim His faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father. Amen.
That prayer I just said is known as the “Ephphatha” prayer, ephphatha being the Hebrew word for “be opened”. Does that prayer sound familiar to you? It might, particularly if you have been at a baptism of an infant or a young child. For the priest or deacon would have said that prayer right after the child received their baptism candle. And as the prayer was recited, the baby was literally touched on their ears or mouth. In doing so, we recall the story of today’s miracle, the healing of the man who is deaf and has a severe speech impediment.
Some background about this miracle. Any person who had a physical handicap, as that man did, would have found himself on the margins of Jewish society 2000 years ago. Why? Because of the belief back then that such handicaps were a result of one’s own sin or the sin of one’s parents. Hence, such persons were regarded by others as being unclean, treated just like a leper. As a result, that person would not be allowed to live in or participate in the life of the community. To make things worse, anyone who would be seen with them also placed themselves under the risk of be labelled unclean.
But movingly, we see that this man has people who love him so much they don’t care what others think and brought him to Jesus. Jesus responds to their love with the healing miracle, and now the man can be fully welcomed back into the community.
Ephphatha. Be opened. I dare say that very few of us here are deaf or mute and need that miracle of healing from Jesus. But remember that prayer was said over you when you were baptized. Even though you could hear, your ears were opened by touch to receive Jesus’ words, teachings and faith. Even though you were not mute, your mouth was touched to proclaim that faith to others, both by word and action. If you were baptized as a baby, you would have had no idea what was going on. But your parents did. Just try to imagine what was going through the minds of your parents and godparents at that moment. Even better – try to imagine what was going through the mind of God at that moment. Can you imagine all the hopes and plans God had for you on your baptism day? That you would become that person who would grow in faith and then live it out? For the words of the ephphatha prayer that was said over each one of us is a reminder that each one of us is called to be authentic and living signs of faith, through which others may be inspired. Just as the deaf and speech impaired man needed others to bring him to Jesus, so too do other people need you to bring them to Jesus.
I have been blessed to see this happen many times over the years. Let me give two recent examples. In July and August we were able to celebrate the 1st communions of our young parishioners that was supposed to happen back in May. Assisting Miriam Hennessy, the coordinator of the programme, were 9 parishioners who generously shared of their time and talents in helping to make the preparation gatherings unfold. They had no family connection to the children, but they had another connection – they were parishioners here, who cared enough to help by sharing their time and talents. And they too helped to bring these children to Jesus.
Another example, this past week 20 of our young people from 11- 14 years old were at the EDGE camp in Haliburton for 5 days, along with 200 other young people throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto. This camp required a massive amount of organization from the Office of Catholic Youth of the Archdiocese along with many Youth Ministers including our Courtney Strom. But the camp also required something else – young adult volunteers to be with and lead our youth. Fortunately, we had such young adult volunteers who did just that. And did so with joy and with faith. And they helped to bring that faith to our 20 young people.
Ephphatha – be opened – to all that God desires you to be and do in this life. Ephphatha – be open – to generously sharing your God given gifts and talents to your brothers and sisters, to bring the faith to them, for the praise and glory of God.
That’s what a Christian does. That is what each one of you are called to do.