Twenty Third Sunday: "Ephphatha - Be Opened"
The scripture readings this Sunday make the link between opening our ears to God and hearing the call of those who are oppressed.
The Christian duty of care to the oppressed dates back to the message of today’s first reading. It is personified in Jesus, who himself made no such distinctions between people during his ministry. Large crowds followed him as he cured people of all kinds of sickness, and many who begged to touch even the fringe of his garment and were healed. Indeed Jesus made the poor ‘rich in faith’ as he proclaimed in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
In St Mark’s Gospel, we hear a story where Jesus reaches out to the excluded. A deaf man with a speech impediment is brought to him. Taking him aside on his own, away from the crowd, Jesus puts his fingers into the man's ears and touches his tongue with spittle. Then with his eyes directed towards heaven he says to the man, 'Ephphatha,' which means, 'Be opened.' And we are told that immediately “his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly”. The people were amazed and news of the miracles Jesus worked spread widely through the surrounding towns and villages “he has done all things well...he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak”.
Deafness can afflict in many way; being spiritually deaf creates its own form of paralysis. Often we are so accustomed to listening to the many messages we hear that we have little space for listening to Jesus and responding to his call. We each have been blessed with many gifts and talents. Our gifts of hearing and speech enable us to communicate and give witness of God’s love, to listen to and proclaim God’s Word.
We need silence to truly hear what God is saying to us in our lives. And then we are called to communicate with our neighbour, and pray for those in our world who suffer. When we to listen to the cry of the oppressed and recognise those who suffer we are truly fulfilling the great commandment “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. As Bl. Teresa of Calcutta said:
“There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives - the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognise it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them”.
(P M 2012)