Sunday, Sep 6; Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

In a recent homily, I mentioned reading “The Road to Character” by David Brooks; a book I highly recommend.  Woven within his insights are profiles of men and women of character:  from Johnny Unitas to Dorothy Day.  The other morning I read the chapter called, “Ordered Love” (on St. Augustine) and was smitten by the words, “To be healed is to be broken open.”

To be healed is to be broken open.  These words articulate the paradoxical nature of faith—its characteristic—and the shattering moment when healings happen:  our lives attuned and open to God. 

With these words in mind, I turned to the Gospel passage for this 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mark 67:31-37), where Jesus opens the ears of a deaf mute.  In the passage people beg Jesus “to lay his hand on him.”  With a compassion that is boundless, he goes beyond what is asked and does much more.  It may strike us as strangely tactile and intimate, but not to anyone living in Palestine at the time.  The meaning it can have for us, however, is that there’s revealed a God in touch with our fallen condition   in ways that defy logic, much like the tactile intimacy of human love.  Without words, Jesus puts his finger into the man’s ear and, spitting, touches his tongue.  As he does so, he groans.  It’s as if Jesus takes on the deaf mute’s condition and, with gut wrenching empathy, fathoms the affliction inside his own flesh.  In touch with the man’s predicament, Jesus understands; he knows.  I’m reminded of words by St. Augustine, “Let me know you, O God, even as I am known.”

After groaning, he utters “Ephphatha”; Aramaic, meaning “Be opened!”  Immediately, the man’s ears open and he begins to speak.  Not only that.  He begins to “proclaim” what has happened, along with the crowd. Healed, his life opens to Christ. It’s the Good News in miniature; a story about what must happen to us; a story we need to heed for we have grown deaf ourselves.  I like to imagine him, with ears open and attuned to his surrounding life with greater intensity; aroused in ways never experienced before by those voices within his life.  Taking nothing for granted, he’s open to God, open to life for good.  

We may have our physical hearing intact, yet deaf to life’s deeper meaning; to God whose voice still sounds within all that has been created.  St. Bernard of Clairvaux writes, “God still speaks, even if no one is listening.”

Often, we turn a deaf ear to God and take for granted what’s been given us.  Too often, the inner musings of the heart are drowned out by the deafening racket we create from the noise within: the murmurings and complaints.  We need to be “broken open” for we’ve grown deaf to what is essential, and what gives us voice on behalf of those who’ve lost their voice altogether within this world of ours.  Only this will heal us.     

“To be healed is to be broken open.”  This happens when we realize how insensitive we’ve become.  Healing happens and lives open when, like the man in the Gospel, we realize the shattering need for God who “still speaks” a word that can rouse us…Ephphatha!

Father Tim Clark, Pastor

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