Be opened. MARK 7:31–37
By Jacqui-Theresa Leiba
This Sunday’s gospel reflection recalls a childhood memory of a favourite poem by Elizabeth Barett Browning.
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
An experience of opening and awakening would very likely have prompted Barett Browning to write such thought-provoking poetry.
Some of our own local artists, poets, musicians, and Carnival designers create in ways that glorify God. Ephphatha is the call of all vocations. It is a call to an opening and awakening to a deeper life in Christ.
In his 2012 Angelus address, Pope Benedict XVI said, “There is an inner closing, which covers the deepest core of the person, what the bible calls the ‘heart’. That is what Jesus came to ‘open’, to liberate, to enable us to fully live our relationship with God and with others. ‘Ephphatha – Be opened,’ sums up Christ’s entire mission.”
In the gospel passage, the hearts of those who brought the man to Jesus were open to his plight and the man too would have needed to be open to being healed.
Most can recall our moment of opening to bringing others to Jesus. We prayed for them or offered a Mass for their well-being.
The various acts of mercy in our families and communities are indeed mutual acts of hearts and minds being opened: bringing others ourselves and others to God.
The gospel tells us that those who brought the man “…asked (Jesus) to lay his hand on him” (Mk 7:32). They expected Jesus to heal in the way they had come to know.
This was different and unexpected perhaps to bring us to the realisation that when we petition the Lord, we are to have an Ephphatha stance of simple trust and be open to leaving the ways of healing to the Lord.
There are times persons remain in their affliction but their relationship with Christ deepens and that too is healing.
Jesus takes the man aside in private. We are to be open to those times and places when the Lord wants to take us aside in private and away from our crowded lives. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we may seek silence and solitude and open ourselves to listen to the Lord, to receive His healing.
In that way, God may be providing us a needed time of silence and solitude to listen to the Lord to receive His healing.
We can connect with Jesus’ sigh and look to Heaven as He heals the man. We recall our own sighs like Jesus, of compassion, or even frustration. We looked to Heaven and perhaps just momentarily, open to the love, mercy and help of the Father.
After the healing, the admiration of the crowd was “unbounded”. They spoke of Jesus in glowing terms and would not stop even though He ordered them to tell no-one about it. What might this teach us?
Jesus would certainly be unaffected by their admiration; so too should be our disposition as His followers. All must be done for the honour and glory of God in seeking to do His will. We must also ask ourselves who we admire and why. The crowd admired Jesus for doing “all things well”.
Once we are opened, we awaken and view life more and more through the lens of gospel values. We recall the story on the road to Emmaus. We are opened through the scriptures and our hearts burn within us listening to the Word of God.
As we receive the Holy Eucharist or spiritual communion, we hear Jesus’ whisper in our ear, “Ephphatha”, and we recognise the Lord at the breaking of bread and in our daily lives. We participate in a more awakened state to the new world that opens in us and in all creation. We come to know the truth of the gospel. The deaf hear, the dumb speak, the blind see, and perhaps we may even write poetry like Barett Browning’s.
Lord, help me to listen to Your call to “Ephphatha” in daily life. Amen.
Jacqui-Theresa Leiba is actively involved at St Patrick’s RC Church, Newtown. She facilitates contemplative prayer and retreats at the parish and at the Foundation for Human Development in Cascade.