Ephphatha: Be opened (Mk 7:34).

A disheartened friend recently told me “I don’t hear God talking to me. He is ignoring me.” I chuckled and said, “God is not ignoring you. He loves you. Be open to him. Sit still for a few minutes, open your mind to him, together with your heart, ears and hands. Close the door to the world and be opened by God.”

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

The 22nd and 23rd Sundays in Ordinary Time invite the faithful to discern the reality of God’s call and the ability to respond. Responsiveness correlates with openness.

Open minds

Moses, in Deuteronomy 4:1-8, expresses to the Israelites, who are now ready to cross the River Jordan, with Joshua in the lead, his final encouraging words. He highlights their intelligence and wisdom, while stressing the importance of faithfully “observing the commandments carefully, not adding, nor subtracting from them” (Dt 4:2). They know all that God has done for them, thus Moses calls them to keep their minds open and fixed upon the decrees and continue to trust in God who will be forever with them.

We are called to respond to the Ten Commandments from God. Are we open to what they are asking? Do we respond to these out of fear of punishment or out of love since God gave these out of love? Are we open to hearing and abiding by them? It is a basic question, yet one worth prayer.

Planted within

The Letter from St. James offers further insight into openness. He begins by reminding us how “All good giving and every perfect gift comes from the father of lights” (Jas 1:17). Since this is true then we ought to be waiting with open hands to be open to receiving such perfection. St. James continues, “Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls” (Jas 1:21).

Planted. Yes, God plants in us the gift of faith and the ability to receive all that is good from him. We respond by “being doers of the word” (Jas 1:22). We hear the words of Jesus to not just recite from memorization (albeit the more you hear the word of God, the more you will be able to recite), but more substantially we are called to act upon those words. If Jesus says, “Feed the hungry,” we feed the hungry. Hence, as we open our minds to “hear the word,” through Jesus Christ, we process it through reason and faith, grow in understanding, receive it in our hearts, and then act. What fills our heart motivates our action. Hence, we pray Psalm 51:12, “A clean heart create for me, God.” Hearts move hands.

In all of this, St. James reminds us to avoid discrimination of any kind. We are humankind. To look upon another as someone less-than bears no fruit whatsoever. Rather we walk together as children of the father of light, who created humankind in his image and likeness. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).

Open ears

The healing ministry of Jesus as revealed in the Scriptures and continues today, is captivating. The Gospel reading for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time is extraordinary. Placed before Jesus is a deaf man with a speech impediment. Jesus takes him aside, and then performs the miracle by the touch of his finger and words. When I think of God’s finger, the masterpiece, ‘The Creation of Adam,” on ceiling of the Sistine Chapel comes to mind, as the finger of God reaches to touch the top of Adam’s hand. The very touch of God creates, heals, sanctifies, restores and gives life. Yet, look at another passage describing God’s finger, “When the LORD had finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant, the stone tablets inscribed by God’s own finger” (Ex 31:18). We return to Moses’ reminder to how God’s very hand provides the fundamental actions of the faithful. God touches our ears to “hear” what is written in stone and planted within our hearts. He touches our tongue so we can proclaim his love and mercy. May God open our minds to his word, open our ears to hear, and move our hearts to do good in order for us and others to “praise the Lord, with all my soul” (Ps(s) 146).

“Whoever has ears, ought to hear” (Mt 11:15).

Dow is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.