Homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
September 8-9, 2018
Sacred Heart, EGF – Saturday: 5:30 PM, Sunday: 8:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 5:30 PM
Focus: Christ opens the ears and the lips of our hearts.
Function: Ephphatha! Be Opened!
Today’s gospel presents a vivid image for us, a very earthy image. Jesus spits on his fingers and touches a man’s tongue and ears…and his tongue is freed and his ears are opened.
Divine power passes through human elements.
The Incarnation is at the center of our Christian faith. God became a man so that man might become God. (St. Athanasius)
Tertullian, another Church Father, put it this way:
The flesh is the hinge of salvation…
The flesh is washed so that the soul might be made clean.
The flesh is anointed so that the soul might be consecrated.
The flesh is signed so that the soul may be protected.
The flesh is overshadowed by the laying on of hands so that the soul may be illuminated by the Spirit
The flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ so that the soul too may be filled with God.
Christ took up our flesh in order to use it as a vehicle to communicate to us his divine life.
The human becomes a vehicle for the divine.
The body becomes a vehicle for the spirit.
The physical becomes a vehicle for the spiritual.
Go back to the beginning, all the way to the beginning. Adam and Eve in the Garden. They walked in harmony with God. They were united to him in relationship.
Then something happened. What happened? Rebellion. They chose against God. Sin entered the world, and with sin, death.
With the Fall, came the fall of creation. Physical evils. Death. Illness. Disabilities. Diseases. None of this was intended by God from the beginning.
These physical realities that exist around us point to spiritual realities. Something has gone terribly wrong.
Just as the physical faculties of some of our brothers and sisters were disabled by the Fall, so the spiritual faculties of all of us to see, hear, and relate to God were also disabled by the Fall.
The people of Israel had a reminder that they recited every day – the Shema…”Hear O Israel, the Lord is God, and the Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength.”
Hear, O Israel…Hearing symbolized openness to God. Those who were deaf could not hear physical words spoken, but those who had the ears of their hearts closed could not accept the word of God even when they heard it. They rejected it. The prophets used deafness as a metaphor for people who resisted God.
Saint Benedict opens the rule of life for his monks with this exhortation: Listen, my son, to the precepts of your master. Incline the ear of your heart. Disobedience was the original sin. The ears of the heart had been closed.
Those who were blind could not see the world around them, but “all had sinned and been deprived of the glory of God.” The eyes of our hearts had been closed by sin. Blinded by our pride, we were cast into the darkness.
And it was there, in the darkness, in the quiet, where our God comes.
Our God comes with vindication. He comes with power.
Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, pierces the darkness by his coming as a man born of the Virgin Mary one cold night in a stable in a forgotten region of the world.
The divine becomes human.
The Word becomes flesh.
He takes up our flesh.
Our flesh becomes the hinge of salvation because it is also now His flesh.
His flesh encounters the flesh of the man in today’s Gospel, a man whose physical condition points to our spiritual condition – deaf to the Word of God and unable to proclaim his glory.
Brothers and sisters, that man is each and every one of us.
That man is each and every one of us stuck in our sins, powerless to heal ourselves.
That man is each and every one of us awaiting a divine healer, someone with the power to set us free, to restore what had been lost.
In today’s Gospel, the flesh of God encounters the flesh of man.
The flesh of God touches our flesh.
And a single word is spoken: “Ephphatha!” “Be opened!”
And the man is restored.
Brothers and sisters, how beautiful that that same word is a part of the rite of baptism.
After a child has been baptized, they are anointed with the holy oil, they are clothed in the white garment, and they receive the light of Christ. The priest then touches the ears and lips of the child with the word “Ephphatha!” – “The Lord Jesus made the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word and your mouth to proclaim his faith to the Glory of God the Father.”
Our lips and ears have been opened to speak of Christ and to listen to Christ!
The words that Christ spoke to the man in today’s Gospel were spoken to you on the day of your baptism, and I say them to you again today:
Ephphatha! Be opened!
Be open to hear the word of God and to proclaim his praises!
Be open to the reality of God’s presence in our midst!
Be open to hear the Word of God spoken to you through the witness of others!
Be open to and willing to speak of God’s word to others – to proclaim God’s praises to others!
Be open to the joy of having your sins forgiven!
Be open to following the promptings of the Holy Spirit in your heart – promptings that call you to action even though what he is calling you to is outside of your comfort zone – callings to love, to give, to show tenderness, to care.
Where is your heart closed?
To which of Christ’s teachings, to which of the Church’s teachings, is the ear of your heart closed?
What fears or sins paralyze the lips of your heart?
The Lord speaks to you today: Ephphatha! Be opened!
Allow yourself to be opened and your heart will leap for joy when it hears the Word of God and accepts it.
The flesh is the hinge of salvation.
We are about to receive this flesh. But in order to receive it, in order to truly receive it, in order to receive Him…our hearts must be open.
We must allow him speak to this word to us
We must receive this word he speaks to us
We must receive his Ephphatha,
We must be open to the word that heals,
to his word that restores,
to his word that calls us to live in such a way as to be united ever more closely to him, without compromise.
Ephphatha! Be opened!