Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B:
By Rev. Fr. Anthony O. Ezeaputa, MA.
In today’s Gospel (Mk 7:31–37), Jesus was traveling through the Decapolis. A man who was deaf-mute was brought to him for healing. With a deep sigh and a lookup to heaven, Jesus took him aside and touched his ears and tongue, then said, “Ephphatha,” which means “be opened.” The man immediately began hearing and speaking clearly (Mk 7:35). Remarkably, the Aramaic word “Ephphatha!” which Jesus uses in this miracle sums up his entire mission, particularly his public ministry.
“Ephphatha!” literally translates as “to be opened.” Additionally, it means “to connect”. In the aforementioned miracle, it is an opening of the organs of hearing and speech and to connect with others and to the world. At least, the deaf-mute is able to communicate and relate with the world in a new way. However, as we all know, a person’s closure and isolation from the world are not solely determined by their sense organs. It is in this direction that the Church wishes to lead us through the miracle of the healing of the deaf-mute, particularly through the word “Ephphatha!”.
There is an inner closure that has an effect on our deepest selves. In the Bible, this innermost self is referred to as the “heart.” So, Jesus became man to “open” and “liberate” our hearts, and to enable us to live fully our connection and relationship with God and with one another. Jesus came into this world for us who have been rendered inwardly deaf and dumb by sin, to be able to hear God’s voice, to hear the voice of love speaking to our hearts, to learn to speak the language of love and to communicate with God and with others.
Hence, the word and the action of “Ephphatha” is part of the Rite of Baptism, the gateway to the supernatural life, as one of the signs that explain the meaning of baptism. The minister, touching the mouth and ears of the newly baptized person, says: “Ephphatha”, and prays that the newly baptized may soon hear the word of God and profess the faith. Through Baptism, the human person begins, so to speak, to breathe the Holy Spirit whom Jesus invoked from the Father with that deep sigh in order to heal the deaf-mute.
Let us ask ourselves these questions:
1. What is blocking our spiritual ears from hearing the word of God?
2. What has stiffened our tongues that we hesitate to communicate fully in faith and love?
3. What is blocking our hearts from communicating and connecting with God and our neighbors?
Let us pray that Jesus opens our hearts, ears, and mouths to the message of today’s Gospel. Let us ask for the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, whose Nativity (Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception) we will celebrate on September 8. Mary was fully “open” to the Lord’s love because of her unique relationship with the Incarnate Word, and she was constantly listening to his word in her heart. May her maternal intercession obtain that every day, in faith, we may experience the miracle of the “Ephphatha”, to live in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters. I wish you a wonderful Sunday!