Homily (Reflection) for the Twenty-Third Sunday of the Year (B) (09th September, 2018) on the Gospel

Is 35:4-7;
Ps 145:7-10 (R. V. 1);
Jas 2:1-5;
Mk 7:31-37.

One parish priest noticed a man who was active in virtually every activity in the parish and wanted to know more about him. He had discussed with the man for a good number of times on diverse issues. But one day, during their discursion that was smooth as usual, the priest asked him about his married life. His countenance fell immediately. And the priest was surprised and all his efforts to understand why the sudden change in the man and to cheer him up were all abortive. At a point, the man managed to mutter: “Father, that is a closed issue that will remain so forever.”
 Topic: Ephphatha (Be Opened).
The Church of England celebrates today ‘Ephphatha Sunday’ which could be loosely translated ‘Opening Sunday’ [Sagayanathan, A. (2009). Launching Pad: Stories for Sunday Homilies, Year-A, B & C. Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, p. 214]. And we read in today’s gospel how the people brought a deaf man who also had an impediment in his speech to Jesus and begged Him to lay his hand on him, cf. Mk 7:32. The gospel further narrates,
He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is ‘Be opened.’ And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly (Mk 733-35).
The book of Genesis tells us that after creation, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Among God’s creatures, humans were made in the image and likeness of God, cf. Gen 1:26; 5:1; Jas 3:9. Yet when
The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart (Gen 6:5-6).
Jesus came to remake creation that had been badly wounded by sin (the wickedness of man), cf. Jn 1:14; Zeph. 3:17. Hence, He tells us that He came that we may have life, and have it to the full, cf. Jn 10:10.
In today’s gospel, Jesus looked up to heaven because “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps 124:8). And the prophet Isaiah rightly noted that those “… who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Is 40:31).
When the people saw what Jesus did in today’s gospel they said, “He has done everything well” (Mk 7:37). A question for each and every one of us is, ‘What do people say when they see our (co-creators) works; do they regret ever meeting us just as God first regretted that He made man because of man’s wickedness or do they give praise to God who made us (cf. Gen. 1:26-27, 28; Lk 18:43)?
We all need the healing touch of Jesus in different areas of our lives to enable us hear the word of God and proclaim it to the glory of God. Many areas of our lives are entirely closed like the ear of the man Jesus cured in the gospel. Other areas although not entirely closed but are poorly used. Many relationships like the man who told his parish priest that his married life is a closed issue because of the pains from the separation with his wife need the healing touch of Jesus. That same Jesus who restored the wholeness of the man that was brought to Him is still at work and wants each and every one of us to come to Him with our joys, pains, sorrows, disappointments, heartbreaks, and so on. He can and also is willing to restore all of us because He came that we may have life and have it in full, cf. Jn 10:10. Jesus also wants us to open up all closed avenues through which He wishes to reach others through us. Just as Jesus put His fingers into that man’s ears, spat and touched his tongue and looking up to heaven, sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ He wants us to do our part and look up to Him in faith for the rest.
Father Sagayanathan goes further to write on the need “to open up the various areas of our life and the ailments of our bodies that require Abba’s blessing, Jesus’ healing touch and the empowering breath of the Holy Spirit.
“Let’s whisper, ‘Ephphatha! Be opened’ to each part of our body, and every avenue of our existence:
“Be opened, my eyes, May I see everything beautiful and the One who made it so.
Ephphatha, all eyes, may we see the evil lurking behind structures and our role in it.
“Be opened my ears, let the symphonies of Nature resound in the recesses of my soul.
Ephphatha, all ears, let the cries of the poor and the powerless disturb our smugness.
“Be opened, my mouth, to sing psalms and poems for the wonders God works today.
Ephphatha, all mouths, to speak against untruth and injustice that silences the lowly.
“Be opened my heart, for the whole world to find some place and some space therein.
Ephphatha, all hearts, breaking down divisions of high-low, rich-poor, pure-impure.
“May ... [we be opened] to a new week, a new life, a new world” [Sagayanathan, A. (2009). Launching Pad: Stories for Sunday Homilies, Year-A, B & C. Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, pp. 214-215].
Bible Reading: Gen. 1:26-31; 6:1-7; Is 35: 1-6; Rom 10:5-21.
Thought for today: Where do you need to open?
Let us pray: Lord, we plead with you to heal every part of our body that is impaired that we may praise you fully in our lives – Amen.
You are free to share this reflection with others if you consider it worthy.

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