Sunday, September 09, 2012

Ephphatha! Be Opened to Hear and Speak in God's Language of Love

This week, over at Cinema Catechism, we are beginning Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism series in preparation for the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization. So it is appropriate that the Gospel reading for today should have Jesus saying "Ephphatha." (Mk 7:31-37)

A few weeks ago, on August 12, we read of Elijah becoming weary and sleeping after fleeing for his life. He is woken by an angel and told to get up and eat. Elijah then eats some hearth cake, drinks some water, and promptly goes back to sleep. The angel returns, touches him and insists, "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" And this time, Elijah listened and ate fully so that, strengthened by that food, he could walk forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God. (1 Kgs 19:4-8)

We too, like the prophet, too often have been wanting to sleep. But it is necessary now for us to get up from our slumber and eat of the Word of God, and the Eucharist as well, so that we might be filled and strengthed for the journey of New Evangelization that awaits us.

And in addition, we should here adopt the "Ephphatha," which Jesus said and pray that He say to us, so that we too, in our closed-in deafness and muteness, might be opened up to communication and relation (communion) with God and others as we prepare ourselves and thereafter go out into the world to proclaim His Good News.

Reflection of Pope Benedict XVI
Sunday Angelus, 9 September 2012
Dear brothers and sisters!

At the heart of today's Gospel (Mk 7, 31-37) there is a small but, very important word. A word that - in its deepest meaning- sums up the whole message and the whole work of Christ.

The Evangelist Mark writes it in the same language that Jesus pronounced it in, so that it is even more alive to us. This word is "Ephphatha," which means, "be opened."

Let us look at the context in which it is located. Jesus was travelling through the region known as the "Decapolis", between the coast of Tyre and Sidon, and Galilee, therefore a non-Jewish area. They brought to him a deaf man, so that he could heal him - evidently his fame had spread that far. Jesus took him aside, touched his ears and tongue, and then, looking up to the heavens, with a deep sigh said, "Ephphatha," which means, "Be opened." And immediately the man began to hear and speak fluently (cf. Mk 7.35).

This then is the historical, literal, meaning of this word: this deaf mute, thanks to Jesus’ intervention, "was opened", before he had been closed, insulated, it was very difficult for him to communicate, and his recovery was '"openness" to others and the world, an openness that, starting from the organs of hearing and speech, involved all his person and his life: Finally he was able to communicate and thus relate in a new way.

But we all know that closure of man, his isolation, does not solely depend on the sense organs. There is an inner closing, which covers the deepest core of the person, what the Bible calls the "heart." That is what Jesus came to "open" to liberate, to enable us to fully live our relationship with God and with others.

That is why I said that this little word, "Ephphatha – Be opened," sums up Christ’s entire mission. He became man so that man, made inwardly deaf and dumb by sin, would become able to hear the voice of God, the voice of love speaking to his heart, and learn to speak in the language of love, to communicate with God and with others.

For this reason, the word and the gesture of '"Ephphatha" are included in the Rite of Baptism, as one of the signs that explain its meaning: the priest touching the mouth and ears of the newly baptized says: "Ephphatha" praying that they may soon hear the Word of God and profess the faith. Through Baptism, the human person begins, so to speak, to "breathe" the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus had invoked from Father with that deep breath, to heal the deaf and dumb man.

We now turn in prayer to Mary Most Holy, whose Nativity we celebrated yesterday. Because of her unique relationship with the Incarnate Word, Mary is fully "open" to the love of the Lord, her heart is constantly listening to his Word. May her maternal intercession help us to experience every day, in faith, the miracle of '"Ephphatha," to live in communion with God and with others.

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