Friday, 7 September 2018

September 9th Sunday Gospel reflection

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September 9th 2018. Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL Mark 7:31-37
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said, ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The deaf mute in the Gospel represents each one of us. We are all is a state of isolation, in a state of being unable to enter into communion with those around us. How does Jesus heal him? There are four stages. Firstly, he takes the man away from the crowd. We too must be taken away from the crowd, from worldly things, from empty things, if we are to be healed of our sicknesses. Secondly, he places his hands in the man’s ears. The hands of Jesus are the hands that created the heavens! We need to have the hands of Jesus in our ears! In other words, we need the grace to comprehend how the hand of God is working in everyday things around us. We need to be attuned to this action of God. Thirdly, Jesus puts saliva on the man’s tongue. This represents the word of God on our tongue. If we are to be healed of our loneliness and isolation, we need to have the word of God on our mouths. Fourthly, Jesus looks towards heaven and says, “Be opened!” In looking towards heaven, Jesus is looking to his heavenly Father. This relationship is the basis of everything that Jesus does. We too, if we are to be healed of our loneliness, must look to the heavens. We must look away from ourselves and enter into relationship with Jesus and the Father.

We need a champion to enable us to break free from our state of blindness and see the light of God
The first reading from Isaiah speaks of the vindication of God. The word “vindicate” is a little surprising. How can the work of God in humanity involve vindication? The word “redeemer” in Hebrew referred to a member of the tribe whose job it was to exact revenge for the offences received. He was an exacter of justice in terms of blood. The tribe was only as strong as its champion or “redeemer”. These archaic categories are no longer acceptable to us, but they bear a symbolism that throws light on the person of Christ. His mission involves doing an act of vindication as well, but not a vindication against persons. Rather, it is a “vengeance” of a more profound type. We live in a fundamental state of injustice. When the prophet Isaiah announces this act of retribution, he speaks of the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf being opened. In the Gospel, in fact, Jesus heals a deaf mute, and in this action we behold the vindication of God. The Lord gives to this man the thing that he truly needs; to see the light. Each one of us needs to see that light, to experience the love of God, to have our hearts visited by grace. This is what the Church has been doing for centuries, handing on, expounding, the love of God, the grace of God, salvation.

The deaf mute represents all of us. We all live in a state of isolation and inability to communicate.
In this Gospel account, we see how grace can be transmitted through the senses. A deaf mute is someone who cannot hear or speak. His ability to communicate is severely compromised. In reality, this deaf mute represents every human person. Each one of us has compromised communication, and we risk finding ourselves in a state of complete solitude or isolation. We need to be vindicated from this state by the vengeance of God. We were not made for solitude but for communion. We were not made to revolve around ourselves but to go out from ourselves and also to receive from others.

We need to be taken away from the crowd in order to be healed. We cannot be healed by continuing to be absorbed in the same banal things. Then we need the grace of God to comprehend his works in our lives. And we need to have the word of God on our tongues.
The process by which Jesus redeems this man from his solitude is curious. First of all, he takes the man away from the crowd. The work of healing cannot happen in the world, doing the things that we do every day, the things of the majority, the things of the crowd. We don’t get healed of our solitude by following the rhythm of fashion. We cannot enter a phase of evolution, growth, resolution, dissolution of the profound knots of our being by doing the things that everyone else does. We need to allow ourselves to be taken out of the crowd and away from the world. Jesus then places his fingers in the man’s ears. This might not sound very impressive, but the fingers represent works, and the fingers of God are those that created the heavens! The fingers of Jesus in our ears. We must allow the works of God to arrive in our ears so that our ears might be healed. The deaf mute represents all of us, and we are deaf to the works of God. We use our faculty of listening to apprehend banal and superficial things. We need the grace of God to allow us to comprehend that the hand of God is operating in the everyday things that happen to us. Then Jesus touches the man’s tongue with his saliva. In order to speak, it is essential to have saliva on our tongue. And in order for us to speak authentically, we need to have the word of God on our tongue. The works of God in our ears, the words of God on our tongues – all of this is a process of initiation. The deaf mute becomes the recipient of gifts, the grace to listen and to speak.

Jesus looks towards heaven before healing the man. It is upon our relationship with the Father in heaven that true communication is based.
Then Jesus does something strange. He looks towards heaven, sighs, and says, “Ephphata” - be opened. Why does Jesus look towards heaven? He is in relationship with his Father. “Heaven” is not some kind of roof above the heads of humanity. Rather it represents the Father. On the basis of the open heaven that exists between Jesus and his Father, humanity too can experience the openness of heaven. We can open our hearts, our lines of communication with each other. Immediately, the man’s ears were opened and he began to speak. This man received a word from God, an act from God. This is what permits the dissolution of his solitude. All of us need the Lord to carry out this vindication. We need to have the works of God in our ears and the words of God on our tongues. All too often, with complicated and contradictory techniques, we try to find solutions for our loneliness. But the only way to dissipate loneliness is with the opening of the heavens. Through the relationship between Jesus and the Father, we discover that we can live in communion. Jesus lives in communion with the Father and gives us the gift of living in communion with him. Only then do we begin to listen in a new way and speak in a new way. May the Lord give us the grace this Sunday to allow our ears and tongues to be touched, so that we can receive the word of God.

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