Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ephphatha! To be Opened

The 23nd Sunday in Ordinary Time


Mark 7:31-37

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."

Ef'-a-tha, ef-a'-tha (Ephphatha): Aramaic word used by Christ (Mark 7:34), the 'ethpa`al imperative of Aramaic pethach (Hebrew pathach), translated, "Be (thou) opened"; compare Isaiah 35:5. The Aramaic was the sole popular language of Palestine (Shurer, History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, IIg, 9) and its use shows that we have here the graphic report of an eyewitness, upon whom the dialectic form employed made a deep impression. This and the corresponding act of the touch with the moistened finger is the foundation of a corresponding ceremony in the Catholic formula for baptism.

 Today’s gospel is about Jesus healing a deaf person. He uses the word EPHATA. It means, ‘be opened!’ It is a very physical gospel… We often say that the human person is capable of God. But engaging God in the Hebrew Scriptures is a very physical thing. We have to open our eyes and see, to open our ears and listen, to open our mouth and speak, to open our nostrils and smell, open the pores of our skin and touch. Yes, see God, listen to God, speak to God, smell God, touch God in nature…

You have to ‘open up’ all your senses to do that… In the gospel stories of Jesus’ healings, Jesus is also very physical. He doesn’t just give people a verbal blessing and they are healed and that’s it. He doesn’t just impose hands on them. He puts his finger in the deaf man’s ears, and says EPHATA.: OPEN UP. He takes his own saliva and puts it on the man’s tongue, and says EPHATA : OPEN UP. He breathes out and his breath enters into the man’s nostrils, and he says EPHATA : OPEN UP. He looks up to heaven and guides the man’s eyes there, and he says EPHATA : OPEN UP. And yes, he does impose his hand on the man, and the man is touching God in Jesus, and Jesus says EPHATA : OPEN UP.

All the senses are involved. If only they were open, they would be aware of God… We don’t tune in to nature enough. We are too closed to its possibilities and its processes. We don’t sense the unexpected places it is going…. We assume it is all a closed system. A closed system doesn’t interact with its environment, and everything flattens out within it, until it lapses into complete inertia. But something is saying EPHATA to nature, at least every few months… It is an open system, interacting with everything around it, coming up with new things that don’t fit what used to be, presenting us with novel information all the time, becoming more and more complex and intriguing…

A father wanted to teach his four sons the lesson of not judging something or someone too quickly, (and not assuming they were closed systems), and so he called his four sons together and said, “I have a task for you. I want you, my eldest son, to go out into our fields and take a look at the pear tree and come back and tell me what your evaluation is of its condition.’ So the eldest went out and saw the pear tree. But it was winter, and the son saw the tree on a harsh winter day and reported back and said to his father: ‘I see nothing of promise about the tree. It appears old, and gnarled and has no blooms on it at all. I doubt it will survive the winter.’

Three months later the father sent the next eldest son out in the spring to evaluate the pear tree. The son came back saying ‘The tree is very beautiful, with white blooms, but it seems purely ornamental, it has no fruit, nor any sign of bearing any. I doubt if it will be of much practical use to us.’ Something had said EPHATA to the tree, but no one appreciated the outcome.

Three months later the father sent the third from the eldest son out in the summer. The son went out to see the tree and came back reporting: ‘the tree seems to be growing and doing well, and it is full of leaves, and I could see some fruit, so I picked one and tasted it, but it was bitter, not fit for human consumption. I doubt it will prove of much use to us.’ Again, something had said EPHATA to the tree, and again, no one appreciated the outcome.

Finally, three months later the father sent his youngest son out to see the tree once more. This time the tree was full of ripe beautiful golden and red pears. The son tried one and came back with the glowing report: ‘Father, we must come quickly for the harvest is upon the tree, and it is heavy laden and needs us to pick the pears for they are ripe and delicious now.’ EPHATA had been said to the tree again, and this time there was someone who did appreciate the outcome.

 The father called his four sons back together, and said ‘You see each of you have observed well the condition of the tree at a particular season of the year, but your judgment of the tree was only partial, and made too quickly based on what you saw on only the one occasion. See to it that you never judge human beings in this way. Never evaluate them too quickly or on the basis of one encounter, for it is unfair and unwise. Indeed all living things should only be evaluated over the course of time and after repeated careful inspection, for who knows but the ugliest and most unproductive of living things might some day turn into the most beautiful and fruitful.’ The father knew what EPHATA meant, and had heard it spoken to nature. Many times. In many seasons.

When are we going to hear EPHATA said to us human beings and to the social systems we live in? If they could open up, they would not be closed any more…. If we could open up, we would not be closed any more…. ----

St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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