23rd Sun [B] 2009

Fr. Charles Irvin

Isaiah 35:4-7; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37
You just now heard an old Aramaic word: “Ephphatha.” It means, “be opened” and was used by our Blessed Lord, the Son of God, as a divine command. He was, of course, dealing with a deaf man who lived in a city name Tyre located in what we know of today as southern Lebanon. Immediately prior to this event Jesus had driven out an evil spirit from the daughter of a Phoenician woman. They lived in a nearby city called Tyre.
Jesus delivered this man from the bondage of deafness. In the bible passage immediately before this one Jesus had delivered a little girl from some sort of evil spirit that had taken over her inner soul. Both the man and the girl had been blocked from experiencing the goodness life in which God intends for us to live.
Ephphatha – be opened. Are we open or are we closed? Ephphatha — be open to what life offers you. If you are living all closed up and apart from the goodness that surrounds you, you need to be healed. Are you open to others around you living in peace, friendship, and mutual sharing, or are you closed off from them? We need to be open to hearing what people have to say to us and stop feeling defensive or protective. Many of us remember that when we were teens we listened to the words of our parents and teachers without hearing what they are saying.
Ephphatha – be opened. In terms of speech, what do we have to say to others? Do we talk with others but speak only of matters that are of little importance? Sometimes we simply chatter and do not share with others what’s in our hearts, share our inner thoughts and our feelings. Is it fear that closes our hearts and shuts our mouths? Perhaps we are too concerned about what others might think of us. Perhaps we want to keep to ourselves. Perhaps it may be other things. But the basic thing we need to see is that we are mute, that our tongues are silent and our mouths are shut when it comes to things that really matter. We need healing. 
Another malady that we experience is deafness to the Gospels, deafness to the Christian faith. Our days are crammed full with too many words, too much talk. We live in the midst of 24/7 cable television news, days filled with texting, twittering, talking and e-mailing on black and blue berries, and on any number of other communication devices. Our children walk through our shopping malls, walk on sidewalks, and ride in cars all the while talking on a cell phone. The paradoxical result? Deafness – deafness when it comes to serious words and serious exchanges about the most important matters of life. People are deaf to the words of Jesus, the thoughts of the bible, and the language of the Church because the loudness and clutter of this world’s noise has made them deaf. Healing is badly needed.
In ancient times God expressed Himself to us through the prophets and holy people of the Old Testament. In the birth of Jesus Christ God expressed Himself fully in His Word made incarnate, in His Word made flesh. As St. John put it in the Prologue to his gospel:
     In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
     And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
Down through the centuries of our human history evil has attempted at every turn to drown out, muffle, and silence the Word that God speaks to us, His eternal, life-giving Word that calls us to be what He created us to be – the sons and daughters who reveal His kingdom. Ephphatha – be opened now to the voice of God.
Here are a few of the main points of what God is telling us:
Human life has a transcendent origin and destiny; it came from God and is destined to return to God. How we live our lives will, however, determine the outcome.
Human life is under God’s dominion and not under ours; we hold human life as God’s stewards; it is not ours to dispose of as we wish.
We have a mission that is God given and that mission cannot be accomplished on our own.
Human society is built on the fundament of a man and a woman living in committed love for each other; they are coupled together in the willingness to accept children lovingly from God in order to accomplish His purposes.
Individuality, personal uniqueness, and our human rights are found in a community of lived-out interdependence, not in the privacy of self-autonomy. Individuality and character are found and shaped in a family.
Human rights are endowed upon us by God and not granted by human government power.
Any society that fails to recognize these fundamental principles is doomed to live in banal sensuality, crass materialism, and shallow self-centeredness; its members will wither and die in spiritual starvation. Their hearts and souls will be muted.
The authors of our own Declaration of Independence believed that our nation should be God centered, that we are as human beings endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. Thomas Jefferson went on to write a statement appearing in the Northwest Ordinance declaring: “Religion, Morality and Knowledge being necessary for the good government and happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
Our nation’s founders along with Thomas Jefferson had ears to hear and acted on the belief that human life is to be God-centered. What do you hear? And what’s being heard in our society these days? Perhaps the man who was deaf and mute 2,000 years ago was not the only one who needed a cure. We, too, need to be open to God.

Ephphatha — be opened.


About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”