The Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
"EPHPHATHA!" - BE OPENED!"
Our readings this Sunday show that what Isaiah foretold long ago is fulfilled by Jesus who comes to save us, to open our ears and our hearts to the word of God.
In our first reading (Isaiah 35:4-7), Isaiah offers consolation and restoration to a people afflicted and oppressed by the evils of their time. In many ways, our world today is just as afflicted and oppressed by the evils of our time.
Thus says the LORD: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water.
In our Gospel reading (Mark 7:31-37), Jesus entered into the pagan territory of the Decapolis, where their ears were closed to the word of God. Jesus healed a deaf man with a speech impediment, echoing Isaiah's prophesy of our first reading. They were astonished and declare, "He has done all things well."
Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” - And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
In our Epistle reading (James 2:1-5), St. James teaches us that human dignity is not determined by wealth or status. Our faith in the "glorious Lord Jesus Christ" is the great equalizer. Christians show no partiality between the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, the powerful and the powerless.
My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please, ” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there, ” or “Sit at my feet, ” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?
Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?
Jesus' healing of the deaf and dumb man should be seen also for it's deeper, spiritual significance. It is Jesus who "comes with recompense to save us." It is He who opens our ears to the Gospel and allows us to speak what we hear. It is He who takes us away from the cacophony of voices that drown out God , who touches us and whispers in our ear, "Ephphatha - be opened!". And it is He who gives us the grace and the courage to proclaim the good news that we hear. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.