In Mark 7:31-37, we pray this day with the deaf man who was healed by Jesus. Jesus took him away from the crowd, put his fingers in the man’s ears, spat, touched his tongue and looked to heaven and asked the Father to open his ears, his voice, and his soul.
Jesus declared, “Ephphatha!” which means, “Be opened!”
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus tells the man not to tell anyone about the healing. This is a device in Mark’s text to move the reader along to the end of the story. We still listen to him. We still long to have Jesus touch us and to open us to his healing presence, discovering the beauty and tenderness of his presence. In our emotional shutdowns, we long to be open.
Jesus’ declaration, his prayer of “Be opened!” has echoed through the centuries. It lands in our ears, in our deafness. Jesus’ touch of love is for us. In the sacraments of baptism, reconciliation, and Eucharist, Jesus continues to show us the way of being opened to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus desires to heal us no matter what, no matter our sins, our divisions, our heartaches, our past hurts, or hesitations, or even our resistance.
Be opened. This is in fact, a command of Jesus. It came from his very mouth. I know I need to listen to these two words that invite me into relationship with him. I feel this command in my body. I feel it as I walk on the earth and lift my soul to heaven. I feel it as I encounter people who are bowed down from fear, exclusion, ill health, and turmoil. I feel it as I listen to other people’s pain and know that I can never fully understand the pain of another person. Yet, I am being called repeatedly to be open to the gift of the Holy Spirit and the surprise of how people journey through the sacrifices they make for family and community.
Be opened. This line is sacramental. It connects us to the freedom of our baptismal life in Christ. It connects us again to the beauty of the Eucharist, where we find eternal life in the center of our daily lives here on earth. As I ponder this simple line, it may very well be a summation of the Christian life. These two words lead us to the glory of Christ’s presence in our encounter with him in our personal prayer and in our communities of faith reaching out to live the mission of the Church on earth. It is a call and a challenge. It demands a physicality of ears, souls, and hearts. It is also a mission and a way of being with other people.
Be opened. Most of all, these two words call us to be in Christ. We cannot live the Christian life without a relationship with Jesus Christ. No matter how hard we try, we cannot produce mercy, tenderness, and compassion without the source of love in our hearts. We will close. We will shutter our hearts. We will look down to the dusty earth only. We will judge others harshly. We will reiterate the name enemy. We will put people in boxes. We will live in exclusion and think others are out to get us. Shut down. Close. Limit. Condemn. These will be the outcomes when we do not take these two words to heart.
Be opened. Jesus’ words to us also lead us to truth. We will speak clearly. We will speak the truth that God gives us. Our hearts, our ears, our mouths, our senses will become God’s instruments on earth to liberate ourselves and one another. This is the power of God’s grace in our lives. Again, we do not forgive or liberate our own lives. When we experience and know his touch, we are set free. All things are possible in Christ. Then, we will be able to hear the voice of Jesus, to sense his presence, to understand his life and ultimately to see his face even here on earth.
Be open. Be open. I want to hear. I want to speak clearly. This is a deep and passionate prayer. This may become the simplest of prayers for you and me this week. I hope you can feel this command in your soul. The Church needs us to hear, to speak, and to love.
They were exceedingly astonished, and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor